|7:00 ET, Mar 8, 2017
Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Mississippi State beats LSU 79-52 in SEC tourney opener
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By TERESA M. WALKER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Mississippi State Bulldogs got just the boost they needed from their bench to kick off the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Reserve Tyson Carter scored 18 of the Bulldogs' 51 points off the bench, and 12th-seeded Mississippi State routed LSU 79-52 Wednesday night
The Bulldogs (16-15) will play fifth-seeded Alabama on Thursday.
"Our bench, especially Tyson in that first half, came off, gave us a big lift, knocked down a couple big shots, got us some momentum going offensively," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "Was really important for us. The second half, I thought (Xavian) Stapleton did an outstanding job giving us big minutes off the bench."
The Bulldogs finished with a 51-12 edge in scoring from their bench with Stapleton finishing with 13 points.
Mississippi State now has won two straight for the first time since winning at Arkansas on Jan. 10, then beating Texas A&M on Jan. 14. The Bulldogs took advantage of playing LSU for the second time in five days, and they also snapped a three-game skid in the league tournament with their first win since their opening game in 2014 over Vanderbilt.
No. 13 seed LSU (10-21) wraps up the season losing 17 of its final 18, including a school-record 15 straight, with this coach Johnny Jones' final game at his alma mater. Jones said he has heard and read the reports that he would be fired at season's end but focused on preparing for this game.
"I don't have any excuses really about what happened this year," Jones said. "I've got the keys. I'm driving the bus, and it was a tough year for us."
After the loss, a person familiar with the situation says the fifth-year coach will not return next season . The person spoke to The Associate Press on condition of anonymity because LSU has not announced Jones' firing.
Mississippi State jumped out to a big halftime lead just as the Bulldogs did in sweeping the regular season series between the teams.
LSU led 8-2 as the Bulldogs missed their first five shots. Then Mississippi State got going with Carter knocking down back-to-back 3s as they swapped the lead four times with seven ties. LSU took its last lead at 25-24 on a jumper by Branden Jenkins with 5:25 left.
"It gave us a spark that we needed to get over the hump to get this game rolling," Carter said.
The Tigers didn't score again until the second half. Weatherspoon stole the ball and dunked with 4:43 left to put Mississippi State ahead to stay, the first of 13 straight points to end the half with a 37-25 halftime lead.
Mays hit a jumper in the opening seconds of the second half to end the scoring drought for LSU. The Tigers never got closer than four, the last at 41-37 on a bucket by Mays with 16:34 left. Peters answered with a 3 as Mississippi State pushed the lead back to as much as 29 in the final minute.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs get a third shot at Alabama after being swept by the Crimson Tide during the regular season. This win gives coach Ben Howland two more victories than his debut season and gives the Bulldogs a chance to improve their resume for the NIT.
LSU: A year ago, Jones had Ben Simmons who would wind up the NBA's No. 1 overall draft pick. Now Jones has lost the tournament opener for the second time in three years, but the school-record skid certainly didn't help Jones' argument to stick around.
LSU finished the game without hitting a field goal in the final 11:33. The Tigers missed their final 15 attempts and hit only one of the last 19. The Tigers also went 1 of 22 beyond the arc.
Mississippi State: The No. 12 seed Bulldogs play fifth-seeded Alabama on Thursday.
LSU: Decision on Jones' future and a possible coaching search.
This story has updated the Big Picture item for LSU to reflect Jones not returning after this season.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Louisiana contributed to this report.
More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.
Updated March 8, 2017