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January 11, 2014
Bulldogs Use Defense, Free Throws and Beat the Rebels, 76-72
Mississippi State (11-4, 1-1) fed off the energy of over 8,000 fans in Humphrey Coliseum and used great defense and aggressive offense to make up for shots that wouldn't fall as they knocked off Ole Miss (10-5, 1-1) at home for the fifth-straight season, 76-72.
The Rebels got off to a fast start in the first half but it was the Bulldogs that would end the half on the biggest note. Ole Miss jumped out to an early 6-0 and 9-5 lead thanks to three threes buy Derek Millinghaus and Ladarius White.
MSU battled back thanks to a 15-3 run to take their first lead of the ball game with 12 minutes remaining. The Bulldogs used three early threes from Colin Borchert and defensive play to push that lead out.
The Bulldogs saw that lead cut down to three late in the half and Ole Miss began to threaten. Roquez Johnson then made an emphatic slam with 10 seconds left to push the lead to five. On an aggressive drive back down the court, the Rebels were stripped by I.J. Ready who took it the distance and scored at the buzzer to lift the roof off the Humphrey Coliseum and give the Bulldogs the 43-36 lead.
Thanks to strong defense, the Bulldogs disrupted the Rebel offense on their way to eight steals as they continue to pace the conference in that state. Craig Sword led the way defensively with five steals.
MSU started the second half as strong as they finished the first as a feed to Gavin Ware and a basket by Sword gave MSU their largest lead at 11 just one minute into the half.
The 11-point lead was short-lived, however. Ole Miss built a 16-3 run to take their first lead since early in the first half at 58-54. Johnson finally stopped the bleeding for the Bulldogs after the timeout and gave them their first points in several minutes to cut the game back to two.
"We kept being aggressive and coach told us that we were going to face adversity," Sword said of the Ole Miss run. "We took it in and we played hard."
With over seven minutes remaining, the Bulldogs came back from a timeout down four. Fred Thomas hit a free throw and got a layup in transition followed by a Johnson layup after the Bulldogs got a steal. State got back in the lead at 61-60 and the Hump came back alive.
But Ole Miss again answered with six straight points after the timeout and a 66-61 lead with five minutes left. That's when MSU shifted the momentum back in their direction again. The Bulldogs would score seven straight on their own and take the 68-66 lead with three min. left.
"We huddled up on our own and I told them that if we got a stop that someone would come down and get a bucket," Ready said. "I think we turned it up on our defensive pressure. We put more pressure on the ball and they were kind of second guessing everything."
Both teams traded leads over the next minute before the Bulldogs tried to take the lead for good. Borchert took a shot deep in the possession and nailed the long two to give State its largest lead in sometime at 72-69 with 1:30 left. But Jarvis Summers came out of the timeout and tied the game once again with a big three with one minute left.
The Bulldogs would add free throws down the stretch and a big Summers travel call to clinch victory for the fifth-straight time against Ole Miss at home. They've also won 15 out of the last 16 at home against their rival and 28 out of 31.
MSU made a living off the line with shots not falling. The Bulldogs actively drew fouls driving inside to finish the game 28-42 off the free throw line while the Rebels were 10-12. The Bulldogs and Rebels each shot 37% from the field.
"Obviously a great win for our guys," Ray said following the game. "It's not because we beat Ole Miss, it's the fact that we dealt with a lot of adversity and found a way to win the basketball game. It's not very many times that you win a basketball game (shooting like that) and we still found a way to win. On top of that, we had a great assist-to-turnover ratio."
State was led by Johnson who dropped a career-tying 20 points on 7-11 shooting and 6-12 from the line. He also added seven rebounds. Sword managed no field goals in the game but did his work on the line and defensively. The sophomore had 15 points on 15-18 free-throw shooting and added seven steals, five rebounds and four assist.
"I kept being aggressive and attacking the hole," Sword said of his day. "I couldn't get any shots to go and finally I got to the line and it was pretty easy. I've been practicing my free throws. Coach told us to attack the zone the whole game. I really saw the holes open up in the second half."
Two more Bulldogs got into double figures with 14 points from Borchert with three blocks and 10 points from Ready who added four assist. Ware led the team with nine rebounds.
MSU now turns its attention to Alabama on Wednesday night as they travel to Tuscaloosa for a 7 p.m. tip on SEC TV.
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