By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s season of disappointment came to an end in front of a sparse crowd in a tournament the Bulldogs didn’t really want to be in.
Massachusetts left Humphrey Coliseum with a 101-96 double-overtime win Tuesday in the first round of the NIT. So a season-low 2,507 fans saw MSU’s season end at 21-12 – a season that at one time held so much promise.
State was at one time ranked 15th in the country and seemed a lock for the NCAA tournament. But a late-season slide and first-round exit from the SEC Tournament doomed those hopes.
“When we first heard we weren’t in the NCAAs, we were down. Nobody wanted to play,” senior point guard Dee Bost said. “But at the same time, it was game time. Everybody realized, yeah, we’ve got another chance to play, and we’re going to go out here and compete no matter what.”
Senior Brian Bryant said the disappointment led to a slow start against UMass (23-11), which opened up 13-point leads in both the first and second halves. MSU used a 20-6 run to claim a 63-62 lead, holding UMass scoreless for a stretch of 5 minutes, 38 seconds.
“You could tell how people’s mindset wasn’t on the game,” Bryant said. “That’s what really just beat us.”
MSU lost despite a career-high 34 points from junior forward Arnett Moultrie, who made 12 of 23 shots.
Bost, who had 20 points, could have won it for State in regulation, but his runner at the buzzer fell short.
MSU came out firing in the first overtime, but UMass fired right back. It led 90-87 when Jalen Steele arced in a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to send it to double-OT.
The MInutemen scored first in the second OT and never trailed after that. The 101 points was the most MSU has given up since 1993, and the most at home since 1990.
UMass shot 43.3 percent, had 21 offensive rebounds (56 total), and scored 24 second-chance points.
Point guard Chaz Williams led the way with 24 points, and his 3-pointer gave the Minutemen a 97-92 lead in the final OT.
MSU fell behind 6-0, and coach Rick Stansbury called a timeout just 1:26 into the game. It did nothing to inspire the Bulldogs, who fell even further behind 21-11 and eventually 41-28.
It was 41-31 at halftime.
Steele scored 17 points, while Bryant added 12. MSU shot 42.7 percent overall and 38.7 percent (12 of 31) from 3-point range.
State’s 20-6 run began immediately after junior forward Renardo Sidney, who’s had conditioning issues, sat down with 13:51 left in regulation.
Sidney did not return to the game.
“We got down, and we’re scrambling with what we’re having to do,” Stansbury said. “Those guys were really playing hard, and that’s kind of what it was.”