Mississippi State's Nick Weatherspoon dunks late in the second half in an NCAA college basketball game against LSU at the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday, March 8, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS — Sometimes after the grind of a regular season, the SEC Tournament is a break.

Teams play on the final Saturday of the regular season and exhale before making the trip to the tournament site. At least that’s how Ben Howland explained his Mississippi State team making 9-of-12 threes in the first half of its 80-77 win over LSU.

“I thought having two days off really refreshed us physically and mentally,” he said. “I thought it really helped us.”

Mississippi State (22-10) led by as many as 19 points in the first half but had to hang on to get the win.

Lamar Peters was ridiculous for the Bulldogs both scoring and handling the basketball with some ankle-breaking moves. He finished with 24 points and six assists.

“We still got life trying to make the NCAA Tournament,” Peters said. “I like to stir the pot by me being a point guard, just trying to get these guys going and being a leader.”

Tremont Waters kept the Tigers (17-14) in the game, hitting a bomb that cut the lead to one inside a minute. He finished the game with 28 points and six assists despite wearing a mask for the first time because of a broken nose suffered in practice this week.

“In the first few minutes, it was kind of messing with me,” Waters said. “I just kept thinking about it. But Coach (Will Wade) told me to really not think about it.”

LSU took 31 threes in the game and never led.

LSU is likely headed to the NIT if the Tigers are willing. Two years ago, they declined the opportunity.

Mississippi State remains a team that probably has to win it all to make the NCAA field.