Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

MSU season ends at SEC Men's Basketball Tournament

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Mississippi State nearly erased a 16-point deficit but the hill proved too steep to climb as it fell 79-69 to Georgia in a second-round game of the Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena. (Source: MSU Athletics Media Relations)

The 11th-seeded Bulldogs completed their first season under Ben Howland with a 14-17 overall record. MSU did win five of its final eight conference regular-season games to battle back from a 2-8 start in league play.

In this contest, No. 6 seed Georgia followed a path similar to a regular-season win in Starkville. Georgia shot the ball well from the field, built an early lead and held on down the stretch for the victory, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with No. 3 seed South Carolina on Friday.

Senior Craig Sword capped his remarkable MSU career with 19 points on a 6-of-16 night from the field and 7-of-9 from the foul line. Fred Thomas came off the bench to hit four 3-point baskets to finish with 17 points in his final game wearing the Maroon and White.

Junior I.J. Ready added 13 points. Senior Gavin Ware was held two points on 1-of-7 shooting but did manage a game-high 10 rebounds.

MSU built an early 8-4 lead on a dunk by Sword. Georgia battled back for a 12-10 lead. From there, the lead switched hands a couple of times.

A pair of free throws gave MSU a 17-15 lead. The lead was then stretched to five points at 22-17 on a 3-pointer by Johnny Zuppardo.

A layup by Malik Newman built another five-point lead at 24-19. Georgia responded with a 12-0 run to seize control of the contest.

Back-to-back baskets by Ware and Sword had MSU back within 31-28. Georgia followed with a 9-1 run for a 40-29 lead.

Georgia turned that momentum into a 42-34 lead at the intermission.

Sword opened the second-half with a three-point play to bring MSU back within 42-37.

Georgia would later reel off seven straight points for a game-best lead of 57-41 with 15:22 left. MSU also trailed by 16 with 11:32 left.

Thomas then fueled a rally as MSU made one last stand. A 3-pointer by Ready had MSU back within 11 and a trey by Newman had MSU back within eight.

Thomas cut the deficit to 68-64 on trey with 7:04 left.

MSU would actually trail by four twice but came up empty a total of five times over two possessions.

For the contest, MSU hit 23 of 62 shots from the field (37.1 percent), 8 of 24 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 15 of 18 shots from the foul line (83.3 percent). Georgia hit 24 of 55 shots from the field (43.6 percent), 7 of 20 shots from 3-point range (35.0 percent) and 24 of 28 shots from the foul line (85.7 percent).

MSU held a 38-35 rebounding advantage. MSU had 14 assists and 13 turnovers, while Georgia had 12 assists and 10 turnovers.

Georgia received 28 points from J.J. Frazier, 20 points from Yante Maten, 12 points from Charles Mann and 10 points from Kenny Gaines.

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