Henry Williams and Demetrice Williams both scored a game-high 17 points to pace the Jaguars. Jamaicus Ricks added 15 points off the USA bench.
Mississippi State shot a season-low 41.9 percent from the field, but South Alabama offset the advantage by hitting on just 42.1 percent (8-19) of its free throw attempts, including a 1-4 effort in the final 68 ticks of the contest.
"Give South Alabama credit, they really shot the ball well in the first half," said Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury, who coached in his 100th career game at the Bulldog helm against South Alabama Sunday. "We came out in the second half and took control of the game, then we got a 16-point lead and absolutely quit playing. The game came too easy for us. We have to learn to play better through stretches like that."
Mississippi State took a game-high, 17-point lead on an Austin layup 1:02 into the second stanza, but South Alabama hung around long enough to cut the lead to single digits, 56-48, on a Henry Williams lay-in with 10:07 remaining. The Bulldogs pushed their lead back out to 12 points with 4:54 remaining, but the Jaguars used crucial MSU turnovers and a hot hand from the field to get to within three points, 67-64, with 1:08 remaining.
Patterson connected on all six of his free throw attempts in the final minute, while State also capitalized on a turnover off the foot of all-Sun Belt guard Demetrice Williams with 19.5 seconds left, to seal the victory.
"We weren't intending to make the game close, we were trying to win the game," said South Alabama head coach Bob Weltlich. "We didn't shoot free throws like we needed to and we didn't rebound very well. But, I thought as the game went on, we grew up a lot. We found out some things about some players."
State, who has yet to trail on the scoreboard during any of its five home games this season, scored the game's first nine points to get off to a healthy lead less than three minutes into the game before South Alabama utilized consecutive three-pointers and a jumper by Henry Williams to knot the score at 11 with 13:06 remaining in the opening half. However, Bowers' jumper 45 seconds later sparked the hosts on a 22-7 run that gave Mississippi State a 33-18 lead with just under four-and-a-half minutes to play.
Mississippi State will return to action this Wednesday when the Bulldogs travel to Richmond, Va., to take on the University of Richmond Spiders of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at the 9,171-seat Robins Center. The Bulldogs will then return home to play host to their fourth Sun Belt Conference foe of the season, as the Arkansas State Indians invade Humphrey Coliseum next Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.
MSU COACH RICK STANSBURY QUOTES:
"Give South Alabama a lot of credit. During the first half I thought they shot the basketball exceptionally well.
"I thought we came out in the second half and basically got the game under control. I think we were up 15 or 16 at one time but we absolutely quit playing. Some of our games become too easy for us and we get relaxed. Then we think we can just spurt back up but you can't do that, especially if the other team hangs around and gains some confidence. We have to learn from this situation."
You got better bench play tonight than you have in the past few games.
"I played Timmy (Bowers) a lot of minutes tonight and he didn't play his best for us. In fact, I really thought he hurt us defensively. I thought his guy drove by us a lot but I wanted Timmy to play and play through some fatigue."
You only played Marcus Campbell just two minutes today.
"We hadn't planned on that but I hadn't planned on it tightening up at the end. If the game had stayed at 15 or 16 it would have been easier to play Marcus more minutes. In a tight game you can't trust Marcus offensively and defensively to make plays everytime. You don't know what a young guy is going to do when the game tightens up."
Marckell shot only four field goals today.
"As I have said all along, Kell plays better at the three spot better than he does at the two spot. Until we develop another two we are starting our most experienced guys and playing them the most minutes at that spot. As a three, he can utilize his quickness better because he probably has a bigger guy guarding him. At the two, he may have a quicker guy on him so he doesn't get runouts because the one's and two's get back on the defensive side."
Ignerski played well for you.
"I thought Igy, during the first half, really played relaxed and did some things very well for us. I thought in the second half he started off relaxed and made a couple of shots for us. Igy has got to become more assertive offensively. I like Igy with the basketball in his hands. I like him being aggressive offensively. Right now, I don't think he is as aggressive as he needs to be because he can score in various ways, shoots the three, plays off the dribble, posts up, gets to the foul line."
Talk a little about Richmond (MSU's next opponent).
"Richmond is very good. You remember the game last year and they have most of those guys back. They lost the one good forward. They are very, very good at home. I'm sure it is in the back of our kids' minds and everybodies' minds. We'll have to play for 40 minutes to have a chance to win that basketball game."
Talk a little about Derrick Zimmerman's play today.
"I know that Derrick turned it over a little bit in the second half. We did some things for a reason with Derrick Zimmerman today. We played him for 20 minutes in the second half. We have to get him to the point where he can play through making mistakes and play through being fatigue. I want him to be in the game when it tightens up."
MSU POWER FORWARD MICHAEL IGNERSKI QUOTES:
Are you hesitating shooting whereas in junior college you would pull the trigger quickly?
"I used to shoot more but here we have five guys who can score so we have to take our time and make good decisions during the game. We are a good team because we are unselfish."
I know you had wrist surgery during the summer. Do you feel completely comfortable shooting the ball now?
"It is much better but that didn't show this game. I feel very good, although the hand feels a little sore sometimes. It is better than it felt before the surgery."
MSU TWO GUARD TIMMY BOWERS QUOTES:
How is your personal development coming along?
"I think I am coming along pretty good. My leg is not bothering me too much. I keep the brace on it for protection so that no one will hit it and hurt it again."
You were starting at the start of the season and you are now coming off the bench. Is that a setback for you?
"Whatever I have to do to help the team to play good I will do. I don't have to start to play good. I can come off the bench and help the team. I work hard in practice everyday to try and get better."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.