Free throws down stretch seal Bulldogs’ victory at home

Mississippi State guard Fred Thomas, left, and guard I.J. Ready celebrate beating Ole Miss 76-72 in Starkville on Saturday afternoon. (AP Photo/The Daily Mississippian, Thomas Graning)

Mississippi State guard Fred Thomas, left, and guard I.J. Ready celebrate beating Ole Miss 76-72 in Starkville on Saturday afternoon. (AP Photo/The Daily Mississippian, Thomas Graning)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Just like its gridiron counterpart, the latest men’s basketball version of the Egg Bowl went down to the wire as well.

In a back-and-forth battle, Mississippi State was able to outlast Ole Miss 76-72 on Saturday afternoon in front of 8,841 fans at Humphrey Coliseum. It was the Bulldogs’ second straight win over the Rebels and fifth consecutive at home.

“This is obviously a great win for our guys,” said MSU coach Rick Ray. “Not just because of the fact that we beat Ole Miss, but it’s the fact that we dealt with some adversity and found a way to win the basketball game.”

The Bulldogs (11-4, 1-1 SEC) made four free throws in the final 50 seconds while the Rebels missed their final three shots during that span. MSU attempted 30 more free throw attempts (42-12) than Ole Miss, converting 28 points from the charity stripe.

“Obviously it’s very difficult to win on the road anywhere,” said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. “And when you get outshot by 30 on the free throw line in a one possession game it’s going to be difficult.”

Each team shot 38 percent from the field, with the Rebels (10-5, 1-1) knocking down 10 of 29 shots behind the arc.

Johnson off the bench

Roquez Johnson paced the Bulldogs off the bench with 20 points in 27 minutes.

Roquez Johnson came off the bench to score 20 points for MSU. (AP Photo/The Daily Mississippian, Thomas Graning)

Roquez Johnson came off the bench to score 20 points for MSU. (AP Photo/The Daily Mississippian, Thomas Graning)

“Coach put me in and said he needed a lot of energy out of me,” Johnson said. “The fans had our back and kind of gave us that boost to go out there and do what we had to do.”

Craig Sword scored 15 points in the contest – all from the free throw line, as he was 0 of 7 from the field – and had a career-high seven steals. Colin Borchert chipped in 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and I.J. Read added 10 points.

State held a 43-36 advantage at halftime, getting a dunk from Fred Thomas and a steal and lay-up by Ready in the final 10 seconds.

The Bulldogs extended their lead to 11 points early in the second half, only to watch Ole Miss go on a 22-7 run over the next eight minutes to retake the lead. The lead changed hands five times and was tied four other occasions in the final seven minutes.

The Rebels committed 16 turnovers, which led to 25 points on the other end.

Jarvis Summers led all scorers with 23 points on 7 of 15 shooting. LaDarius White added 16 points and Derrick Millinghaus contributed 15. Summers, White and Millinghaus were responsible for nine of Ole Miss’ 3-pointers.

Next up for the Rebels a home date with LSU on Wednesday at 8 p.m., while MSU visits Alabama at 7 p.m.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com