By Gene Phelps
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Mississippi State’s road to the national championship of college basketball was ended Saturday by a big Orange roadblock named Syracuse.
The 15th-ranked Orangemen scored 25 points off 21 Mississippi State turnovers on their way to a 77-69 victory over the 19th-ranked Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament’s national semifinals at the Meadowlands Arena.
The loss ended a 7-game postseason winning streak that carried the surprising Bulldogs to an SEC Tournament championship and the school’s first berth in the Super Bowl of college hoops the Final Four.
It’s a season junior forward Dontae’ Jones won’t forget.
“I’ll always remember how we came together as a team after we went through that stretch where we lost 4-of-5 games,” he said. “We won the SEC Western Division and the SEC Tournament. Only one team can win this tournament. I’m satisfied with the way everything went.”
Syracuse, which upped its record to 29-8, advances to Monday’s national championship game where it will play No. 2 Kentucky or No. 1 Massachusetts.
The tipoff is scheduled for 8:22 p.m. CST.
The Orangemen were led by All-Big East forward John Wallace, who scored 21 points, and forward Todd Burgan, who pumped in 19, including a big 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 42 seconds remaining.
“Syracuse was the better team tonight and they came out and showed it,” Jones said. “Maybe on another night we win, but tonight it was Syracuse’s game.”