Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Ray applauds his team's effort against the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Mississiippi State men's basketball coach Rick Ray made sure he let it be known how he felt about the student involvement in Saturday's game against Ole Miss.
After shaking hands with the Rebels, Ray came over to the student section, pointed and celebrated with the same students he asked to come.
It paid off as the Bulldogs (8-20, 3-13) outlasted in-state rival Ole Miss (21-8, 10-6) 73-67 inside Humphrey Coliseum.
"I really appreciated the fan support, especially from the student body population," Ray said. "I can't tell you how much energy and enthusiasm our guys had for that basketball game when they saw the student body population filled up like that."
Mississippi State came into the game losing its last 13 games and dropping the first decision to the Rebels in Oxford.Â
"I'm happy for our guys," Ray said. "I can handle the negativity of being 0-2 against Ole Miss, but I don't know if our guys, being that fragile, can handle that."
MSU junior forward Colin Borchert led the Bulldogs with a career-high 21 points.Â
"Colin was huge for us," Ray said. "(He) made some big 3s, but more importantly, he got some driving opportunities and made some plays in the motion offense."
Borchert knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Bulldogs a 7-5 lead with 16:48 left in the opening half.
The Rebels answered with a 10-4 run to back the lead at 15-9 with 13:27 remaining in the first half. MSU outscored Ole Miss 25-15 to end the half and take a 34-30 lead into the locker room.Â
The Rebels came into the game needing a win to keep their NCCA Tournament hopes alive.
"I thought it was right from the jump, Mississippi State was playing like the team that was fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "I have no explanation for that. They deserved to win and we deserved to lose."
The Bulldogs stretched their lead to 45-36 after opening the second half on a11-6 run to open the second half.
MSU led 63-49 with 4:20 left in the game. The Rebels scored the next five points in one trip down the floor after Nick Williams made a layup and technical foul by Roquez Johnson, who was playing in his first game since being suspended for three games, led to a Marshall Henderson 3-pointer to make itÂ 63-54.
"Henderson is a unique kid in college basketball, because there's a lot of people that can make shots spotting up, but there's not very many who can shoot the ball off the cut like he can," Ray said.
Henderson finished the game with 16 points after scoring 31 in the first meeting. He was only 4-of-19 from the field and 3-of-18 from behind the 3-point line.
"We went out, we all played together and we played hard," MSU junior guard Jalen Steele said. "To add on to that, we had everybody into it. The coaches were into it, the crowd was definitely into it. It really felt good."Â
Ole Miss got a layup from Murphy Holloway to make it 63-56. The Bulldogs answered with two free throws to make it 65-56 with 2:21 left in the game.
"We just found away," Ray said. "It seemed like that last 3:40 lasted longer than the whole second half combined. I just wanted the clock to go, (and) to go."
The Rebels didn't go away and cut lead down to four at 71-67 after Henderson hit another 3-pointer with 14 seconds left.
Borchert knocked down two free throws to ice the game for MSU.
"Coach always tell me 'once you hit a couple of 3s, they are going to be flying out on you, so just up fake and go to the rim,'" Borchert said. "I just listened to the coach."
Borchert was 7-of-10 from field goal range and 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point line.
Holloway led Ole Miss with 22 points.
MSU freshman forward and Starkville native Gavin Ware had 12 points and Steele and Johnson each had 10 points.
"It was big," Steele said of getting Johnson back. "It seemed like when he came back he didn't miss a step. He came back being aggressive."Â
The Bulldogs are back in action Wednesday when they travel to South Carolina for a 6 p.m. tipoff. MSU beat the Gamecocks 56-54 in the first SEC game of the season.
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