n Vanderbilt star Foster makes game-winning 3-pointer in overtime thriller.
BY GREGG ELLIS
NASHVILLE – With 2.7 seconds to play, there really wasn’t any doubt as to who was going to take the last shot.
Everyone in the building knew, including the Mississippi State bench.
And once he took that shot, all those 14,316 fans in attendance, including the MSU bench, knew what the end result was going to be.
If ever a player carried a team on his back, it was Shan Foster on Wednesday night.
The SEC’s leading scorer delivered dagger after dagger in the final frame, but none bigger than the 3-pointer he drained with 2.7 seconds left to lift Vanderbilt to a thrilling 86-85 overtime victory against Mississippi State.
Foster, playing for the final time at Memorial Gym, finished with a career-high 42 points, while hitting all nine of his 3-pointers in the second half.
Quite the contrast from a year ago in Starkville, where he scored only 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
“It’s simple. Foster beat us,” said a drained MSU coach Rick Stansbury, whose team fell to 20-9 overall and 11-4 in SEC play. “There’s not anything else that can be said. He jumped up most times in stressful situations and made shots. There’s nothing else we could have done. He was awfully good. He had a monster game.”
And even that’s an understatement.
Every time it looked as if the Bulldogs were going to pull away, Foster would deliver, especially in the closing minute.
With MSU leading 73-68 following two free throws by Jamont Gordon, Foster hit his sixth trey of the game to close the gap to 73-71.
Then it came down to free throws.
With 24.3 seconds to play, Gordon hit just one of his two attempts, opening the door for more Foster heroics.
Again, he didn’t disappoint, as he tied the score at 74-apiece on another trey.
The Bulldogs had a chance to win in regulation, but Gordon’s 10-foot jumper at the buzzer rimmed out.
In overtime, State never trailed until the end, thanks two 3-pointers by Ben Hansbrough, who didn’t score a single point in the first 40 minutes.
But with 29.2 seconds left, Hansbrough made just one of three free throws, again paving the way for Foster to claim the moniker, Mr. Clutch.
He did, lifting the Commodores (25-5, 10-5) to a stunning victory with his 35-foot prayer that hit nothing but net.
“He stepped up with the game on the line in regulation and hit a 30 footer,” said Stansbury, whose team was 15 of 28 at the foul line, while Vandy was 11 of 11. “He stepped up with the game on the line in overtime and hit a 35 footer. What a way to go out on senior night. Foster beat us. He just jumped up and made shots.
“Give Foster credit. I’m proud of what our kids did. There’s no negatives. All I asked of my guys before the game was to leave everything they had on the floor. They did, and we’ll walk out of here with our heads held up. I couldn’t be more proud of the way this team played.”
Gordon, who missed the last 30 seconds due to severe cramps, led the Bulldogs with 24 points, while Charles Rhodes totaled 22. Rhodes also grabbed 14 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the year.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome Foster’s memorable evening, one that featured five lead changes and six ties.
“Unbelievable,” Gordon said. “He hit some shots. He was just in his rhythm. We contested all his shots, but there’s not much you can do about that.
“We gave it all we’ve got. Our team, they fought their tails off out there.”
n Box score, Page 2C