MISS. STATE HOLDS OFF GATORS 69-66
By Gene Phelps
GAINESVILLE, Fla. When Mississippi State finds itself in deep trouble, the call goes out for Darryl Wilson.
Saturday afternoon at Florida’s O’Connell Center the 17th-ranked Bulldogs had the homestanding Gators snapping at their lead in the final minute. That’s when State coach Richard Williams turned to Wilson.
The senior guard responded by hitting a driving layup and 4-of-5 free throws and deflecting a Florida pass in the final second to help the Bulldogs preserve a 69-66 Southeastern Conference victory.
“We try to get him (Wilson) the ball in those situations,” said State’s Williams, whose team upped its record to 10-1 overall with its sixth consecutive road win. “He’s been a great free throw shooter in pressure situations.”
Wilson led the Bulldogs, now 2-0 in the SEC, in scoring with 18 points. Fifteen of his points came in the second half. He said he expects to get the ball in pressure situations.
“I’m used to it,” he said, then smiled. “Coach wants the ball in my hands. I definitely want it.”
For State, Russell Walters added 13 points, Marcus Bullard had 12 and Erick Dampier added 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Florida, which saw its record dip to 5-6 overall and 0-2 in conference play, was led by 6-foot-7 heavyweight center Dametri Hill with 18 points. LeRon Williams added 13 and Eddie Shannon had 11.
State built a 13-point lead midway in the first half only to lose it before halftime. Dontae’ Jones’ dunk on an offensive rebound gave the Bulldogs a 21-8 lead with 9 minutes, 43 seconds remaining. The Gators rallied to outscore the Bulldogs 18-4 to go ahead 26-25 with 2:53 left.
Up 29-28 at the half, State built another 13-point lead, 55-42, with 7:39 remaining. A 3-point basket by Bullard provided the margin.
But the Gators came back again, going on a 12-0 run to cut State’s lead to 55-54. State answered with three consecutive baskets by Walters, Wilson and Bullard to keep the Gators at bay heading into the final minute.
“That is how it’s gonna be on the road,” Wilson said. “The home team is going to make their runs. We just have to respond.”