The Bulldogs, who held a 13-point lead in the first half, saw that evaporate and frittered away chances at game's end in a 61-59 loss to Florida Atlantic. The 4,204 fans at Humphrey Coliseum saw MSU suffer its first loss after winning four games by 10 points or less.
Even after blowing the lead, State (4-1) had ample opportunity win. In the final 42.4 seconds FAU (4-4), of the Sun Belt Conference, made only 2 of 5 free throws - but MSU missed its final four freebies, all of which could've tied the game, over the final 31.4.
"There's just no margin for error with this basketball team," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "We've been very fortunate the first four games with the margin of error. Tonight the margin of error didn't go our way."
After Kodi Augustus failed to finish off a 3-point play, leaving MSU behind 60-59, junior college transfer Brian Bryant missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 9.4 seconds left, and then missed two with 1.5 left.
He had to miss the final free throw, because State was down two points. The rebound went out of bounds to the Bulldogs with no time left, but the officials put 0.3 back on the clock.
Augustus got off a shot in the lane on the inbounds pass and missed. It was waved off anyway.
'Part of the game'
"Going to the foul line, missing free throws - none of us like that. Unfortunately, that's part of the game," Stansbury said. "Some of those other things ain't part of the game. And it's those things that I don't like."
What Stansbury particularly didn't like was MSU's letdown near the end of the first half, and the porous interior defense in the second half. FAU scored 38 points in the paint and had 15 second-chance points.
MSU led 33-20 late in the first half, but FAU closed with a 9-2 run and drew within 37-34 early in the second half. The Owls' first lead since 3-2 came when Shavar Richardson scored off a steal for a 46-45 edge with 10:06 to go.
MSU's last lead was 55-54 on Twany Beckham's layup at the 3:26 mark. FAU went back up 57-55 on Brett Royster's wide-open dunk, one of several times the 6-foot-8 senior found himself unimpeded in the paint after halftime.
He finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Fellow big man Kore White had 18 points and seven boards.
The comeback was also fueled by a zone defense that shut down MSU senior guard Ravern Johnson, who was averaging 27.3 points per game, fifth in the nation. He had 18 on Tuesday, but only four in the second half.
"I knew if we were going to have a chance to win, we were going to have to contain him," FAU coach Mike Jarvis said.
The Bulldogs never could solve that defense.
"I really didn't know what to do," Johnson said
Augustus had his fourth double-double of the season, notching 13 points and 10 rebounds for MSU.