NEWARK, N.J. – A quick 7-0 run by Mississippi State out of the last media timeout provided the necessary push to lift the Bulldogs to a 67-61 win over Kansas State in the fourth annual Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon.
Leading 58-55 after a pair of free throws by junior Cartier Diarra with 3:51 to play, redshirt freshman guard D.J. Stewart connected on buckets on consecutive possessions to give Mississippi State (7-2) the lead for good at 59-58 with 3:11 to play. A jumper by senior guard Tyson Carter and a free throw by sophomore Robert Woodard II finished off the 7-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 62-58 lead with 2:04 to play.
K-State (6-4) had one last opportunity, trailing 64-61 with 50 seconds to play, but a turnover by freshman Antonio Gordon after he grabbed the rebound on a missed shot by Carter ended any hopes of a comeback.
In all, MSU scored 22 of the game’s last 31 points, including 12 of the last 15, to win a game at the Never Forget Tribute Classic for the second consecutive season.
The Wildcats were hampered by a more than 9-minute second-half field goal drought, which included 9 consecutive misses starting at the 7:52 mark and lasting until junior guard Mike McGuirl’s layup with 50 seconds.
For the game, K-State connected on just 32.6 percent (14-of-43) from the field, including 27.3 percent (6-of-22) in the second half. The Wildcats did take advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line, knocking down a season-high 27 of 36 attempts from the stripe for a 75 percent clip.
Diarra scored a game-high 20 points, including 12 in the second half, on 5-of-10 field goals and 8-of-12 free throws, while McGuirl was the other Wildcat in double figures with 14 points on 4-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. McGuirl did most of his damage in the first half with 12 points on 3-of-3 shooting.
Carter’s 14 points led a balanced offensive attack for the Bulldogs, as four players scored in double figures, along with junior Abdul Ado (13), Woodard (12) and Stewart (10). Woodard also registered a game-high 10 rebounds for the double-double, while Ado nearly missed a double-double with 9 rebounds.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard II opened the scoring just 12 seconds into the game with a 3-pointer, as the Bulldogs took a 7-2 advantage into the first media timeout at the 15:09 mark.
K-State tied the game at 7-all after a pair of free throws from junior Levi Stockard III and a corner 3-pointer from junior Mike McGuirl with 14:24 to play before halftime. The team battled through another tie before junior Cartier Diarra gave the Wildcats their first lead at 12-11 with a corner 3-pointer at the 11:59 mark.
After a free throw tied the score at 12-all, K-State rattled off 7 straight points, keyed by another 3-pointer from Diarra, to take a 19-12 advantage with 9:46 to play. Back-to-back 3-pointers from senior Xavier Sneed and McGuirl pushed the lead to 25-15 and forced MSU head coach Ben Howland to call his first timeout at the 8:18 mark.
The lead stood at 12 after two McGuirl free throws, but the Bulldogs used a 6-0 run to close the deficit to within 27-21 with 4:55 remaining. A third 3-pointer by McGuirl spelled the momentum on the next possession.
However, MSU responded to the McGuirl 3 with an 8-0 run to close to within 30-29 and force head coach Bruce Weber to use his timeout with 1:07 before halftime. The timeout didn’t halt as a free throw by Woodard tied the game at 30-all. A pair of free throws by freshman Antonio Gordon gave the Wildcats the lead at 32-30 but a layup by freshman Iverson Molinar with 6 seconds tied the game at 32-all at the half.
Six of K-State’s eight field goals in the first half came from 3-point range, as the Wildcats connected on 38.1 percent (8-of-21) from the field, including 54.5 percent (6-of-11) from 3-point range. The team took advantage of their opportunities from the free throw line, hitting 10 of 14 free throws. MSU hit on 42.9 percent (12-of-28) of its field goals in the first half, including 37.5 percent (3-of-8) from long range.
McGuirl led all scorers with 11 points on 3-of-3 field goals, all from 3-point range, in the first half, while Diarra added 8 points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-4 from long range. Woodard paced the Bulldogs with 9 points.
The two teams traded the lead in the early going of the second half, as a Diarra lay-up gave K-State a 40-38 edge into the first media timeout at the 15:16 mark.
After MSU tied it at 41-all, K-State sprinted back ahead with 4 consecutive points on a Diarra layup and a pair of free throws by Sneed for a 45-41 edge with 12:17 to play. The lead grew to 49-43 on a jumper by Sneed and a driving layup by junior David Sloan at the 9:56 mark.
A free throw by Antonio Gordon gave the Wildcats a 52-45 lead with 8:27 remaining, the Bulldogs slowly chipped away to tie the game at 55-all on two free throws by sophomore Reggie Perry with 5:05 to play.
K-State had a 58-55 lead going into the final media timeout at the 3:51 mark on pair of free throws by Diarra, but MSU scored 6 straight points to take a 61-58 edge and force Weber to call a timeout with 2:19 to play.
The Wildcats could not get closer the rest of the way, as the Bulldogs closed it out by hitting 3 of their last 4 free throws to earn the 67-61 victory.
MSU connected on 36.7 percent (11-of-20) in the second half with 10 of the 11 field goals coming inside the arc, while K-State hit on just 27.3 percent (6-of-22) from the field, including all 7 3-point field goals. The Wildcats were helped by the free throw line, as they hit on 77.3 percent (17-of-22) from the line.
Diarra scored 12 of his game-high 20 points after halftime on 2-of-4 field goals and 8-of-10 free throws. Abdul Ado led the Bulldogs with 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go with 6 rebounds in the second half.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Junior Cartier Diarra led all scorers with a game-high 20 points on 5-of-10 field goals, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range, while hitting on 8-of-12 free throws. He went without an assist for the first time this season.
Junior Mike McGuirl also scored in double figures with 14 points on 4-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-5 from long range, and a 3-of-4 effort from the free throw line.
STAT(S) OF THE GAME
14 – After averaging nearly 30 points per game in the paint, K-State had just 14 against Mississippi State. The Wildcats connected on just 32 percent (8-of-25) from inside the 3-point arc.