"I had a vision coming out of the timeout that it was going to come right to me and it did," said Thomas, a product of Jackson, Miss. "It was a shot I had made just like that in high school. The look was good. It was straight on. It felt good and looked good.
"It just didn't fall. It was like God didn't want this one to go down. That's all I can say because everything else seemed just right."
Arkansas coach Stan Heath said Ronnie Brewer was the Hogs' top option on the last play for the Hogs, which came after MSU took the lead with 8.9 seconds left on a spinning drive by Dietric Slater.
"I'm not saying what option number two was because we have other games and I don't want to give away our late-game plays," Heath said. "But I'll say that I liked what we got. That was a good look for a game winner.
"I liked our chances when we got the lead because we have been good in late-game situations. We just didn't make enough from the line. We were 10 of 21 from the foul line and that's not good enough. They can't guard you when you are at the foul line and we have to do better. We have been better than that. We are the number two team in the conference from the line and we just have to do better."
The Hogs gave up two drives for layups in the final minute to lose the lead. Both came in transition after the Hogs failed to stop the ball in their fullcourt press.
"If you ask me if we have an advantage with the press or without it, I thought with the way we were playing, the press had been good to us," Heath said. "They just converted on two tough shots against our defense. Slater made a tough shot. So did Jamont Gorder."
Gordon's tying basket with 51 seconds to play came when he pulled the ball away from Ronnie Brewer near the end of his drive.
"I thought I had stopped him, but he kept going," Brewer said. "I thought it was a tie and then he pulled away and took one more step. It was a strong play and a tough shot. I give him credit for making a great play. They converted late and we didn't. Give them credit."
Brewer led the Hogs with 24 points and Jonathon Modica poured in 20. Stephen Hill was the only other Hog in double figures with 10 points, a career high. Darian Townes fouled out with zero points.
"We did a good job on Townes and Hill, their two starting big men," said Rick Stansbury, MSU head coach. "Townes can be a load down low and we kept him from scoring. That is huge. Hill gets 10, but I was pleased with what we did inside. That was a big key in the game."
From a tie at 19-all at the 7:01 mark of the first half, State dominated for a 36-26 lead at intermission. The Bulldogs landed a 6-0 run while UA star Ronnie Brewer threw up two air balls at the other end.
The main difference in the first half came from 3-point land. The Bulldogs nailed five of their nine 3-point attempts. Eric Ferguson (1 of 4) had the Hogs' only trey. Arkansas was 1 of 9 on 3-point tries against MSU's zone defense.
Jonathon Modica led the Hogs with 10 points in the first half, including four layups on fast breaks. The Hogs forced seven turnovers, but only one in the last 7:36. Brewer had 7 points, but was just 3 of 9 from the field.
Arkansas got nothing inside. Charles Thomas and Darian Townes each got in early foul trouble. Townes was 0 of 4 from the field. He got his third with 2:24 left when MSU's 6-9 Piotr Stelmach, a native of Poland, beat him on a dribble from the wing. Stelmac nailed a 3-pointer three minutes earlier when the Hogs switched on a high-post screen.
The Hogs made just 36 percent in the first half, typical of their struggles on the road last season when they won only at Ole Miss away from Bud Walton Arena in SEC play. The only time the Bulldogs switched out of their 2-3 zone came midway through the first half when the Hogs briefly inserted point guard Sean McCurdy.
The Bulldogs were an even 50 percent (14 of 28) in the first half. The Hogs pressed off and on throughout the half. That scheme helped the Hogs battle back from an early 6-0 deficit, pulling even for the first time at 8-8 on Stephen Hill's layin. Modica had a layup to finish off an 8-3 run for a 12-11 UA lead, their only advantage of the half.
The Hogs fought back into the game early in the second half behind Modica and Brewer. The Hogs got on the board with Brewer's dunk, then Modica, shooting MSU out of its zone in the process, scored 10 of the Hogs' next 13 points and the Hogs took the lead on a Charles Thomas foul shot at 44-43 with 14:37 left.
The Hogs led it at 59-56 with 6:24 left, but they could not keep momentum becaucse of missed opportunities at the line. Hill missed the front end of a bonus with 5:05 left. Townes then missed both ends of a two-shot foul with 3:48 left with the scored tied at 59.
The Bulldogs then took the lead when Townes fouled out on an offensive rebound try. Two foul shots at the other end made it 61-59. Then, when Hill missed a running hook, MSU scoredin transition for a 63-59 lead to force the Hogs into a timeout at 3:10.
Brewer rallied the Hogs again. They used his twisting inside moves and some turnovers fueled by the fullcourt press to actually take the lead on a Brewer layin with 1:05 left, 67-65.
The Bulldogs tied it when Jamont Gordon powered past Brewer and another Hog for a layin with 51 seconds left when the Hogs were caught momentarily without a center on the floor.
Arkansas called timeout with 26 seconds left to draw up something for Brewer. He found himself open atop the key with 15 seconds left. His shot went high off the iron.
MSU got the game winner when Dietrich Slater drove hard down the baseline to bank a shot past Hill with 8.9 seconds left.
The Bulldogs got a timeout to set their defense, but the Hogs got another good look from atop the key. This one came when Brewer flipped the ball back to Mississippi native Charles Thomas for a strong jump shot from about 21 feet. It hit the back of the rim, the front of the rim and then out at the buzzer.
Heath said he was told a technical foul in the second half was called on the bench, possibly on assistant Ronny Thompson.
"I sure wasn't trying to get one," Heath said. "I basically was on my knees in disbelief, but I didn't say anything. The call, he said, was for someone jumping off the bench behind me. I didn't see it. I can't see behind me."
It came when Brewer and Hill double teamed Gordon atop the key. Gordon lost his balance and ultimately fell down with the cramps, something that knocked him out of the game twice. Brewer backed off to let him fall and then scooped up the ball only to be whistled for a foul.
"I didn't even touch him or bump him," Brewer said. "He cramped up and lost his balance and just fell. He dropped the ball. I just got out of his way and let him fall. And, I went to get the ball. I was surprised, but you aren't going to get all the calls and that didn't beat us.
"We just missed too many open looks down the stretch and missed our foul shots. That was the key to this game."
Mississippi State 69, Arkansas 67 (Final)
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