The 100th season of Mississippi State basketball ended in rather forgettable fashion on Tuesday night, with a 101-96 first-round NIT loss the University of Massachusetts in double overtime.
The Minutemen (23-11) opened the contest with an 8-0 run and never looked back. They withstood a couple of Mississippi State (21-12) runs but always seemed to find the answer just when they needed it.
Arnett Moultrie had 18 of his career-high 34 points in the first half and was the only reason State didn’t trail by more than 10 heading into the locker room down 41-31.
The Bulldogs shot just 40 percent from the floor in the first half in large part due to the UMass pressuring full-court defense.
“They pressed us and for the most part we handled it," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "I know we turned it over some, 15 times in 50 minutes (13 times in regulation). I don’t think we turned it over a whole lot against it, some, some, but we got some baskets against it too.” Coming out of the locker room, the Bulldogs and Minutemen traded punches before State finally cut into the UMass lead. “
The second half we just came out and played kind of loose,” said senior point guard Dee Bost, who ended his MSU career with a 20-point, 13-assist effort.
“The first half we were thinking too much and making crazy decisions. The second half we came out and made shots playing loose.”
Mississippi State took its first lead of the night at 63-62 with 7:57 remaining in regulation and from that point, the two teams battled with Renardo Sidney on the bench.
“We got down and we were scrambling," Stansbury said of having Sidney on the bench. "Those guys were really playing hard and that’s where it was. We were having to defend and stop that ball screen and … those guys competed. We were down 11,12 or 13 at that time and I was forced to go small even. That helped us get back in the game.”
Despite all the things that went wrong this season and in this game, Bost had a chance to win it for his team in regulation, but the runner simply wouldn’t fall.
“I was awfully proud of our guys for not quitting,” Stansbury said of his team which dropped seven of their final nine outings. “They kept fighting, fighting, and kept fighting. We just ran out of bodies. The guys that were on that floor were competing and that’s all I could ask of them.”
True, this group of Bulldogs left it all on the floor in the season finale and according to Moultrie, it was just business as usual.
“We were just our there trying to compete for a win,” he said. “It was nothing out of the ordinary. It is the same game routine, trying to compete to get a win. It wasn’t frustrating at all, we were just trying to win the basketball game.”
For the game, Moultrie led the way with his point total, followed by Bost, Jalen Steels with 17, Brian Bryant with 12, Rodney Hood with eight, and Sidney with three.
As the Bulldogs closed the book on the 2012 season coach Stansbury looked back and admitted, they didn’t win as much as he would have liked.
“Naturally, there are some things that didn’t go well for us,” he said. “It is a fine line, as you well know if you make one free throw against Georgia here and against LSU, we’re not having this conversation, we’re not playing here (Tuesday night). A fine line it is. I’m still proud of these guys. They won 21 games in this league. We all want to win more, but we just weren’t able to do it.”