Bulldogs Pull Out OT Victory In Columbia

COLUMBIA, S.C. - In the first overtime contest of the season for either team, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (18-8, 9-3 Southeastern Conference) posted their first win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-14, 4-8) in their last four matchups Saturday afternoon with a 61-56 road victory.

With just 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation and MSU down 50-47, sophomore Ben Hansbrough was fouled on a three-point attempt and nailed the resulting three free throws to send the game to overtime. After State lost sophomore defensive presence Jarvis Varnado late in regulation, and all-America candidate Jamont Gordon early in overtime to foul trouble, senior Charles Rhodes dominated the extra stanza, scoring six points and claiming three rebounds in the period to ensure the MSU victory.

Rhodes led all scorers in the game with a total of 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field in addition to his nine rebounds. Varnado claimed 12 rebounds, scored seven points, and blocked five shots to move to fifth on the SEC's all-time single-season block list. Gordon added nine points, five rebounds, and four assists in the win.

Freshman Mike Holmes fared well off the bench for the Gamecocks, notching his second-straight, double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore Devan Downey shot 6-of-18 to record 19 points along with three steals.

Holding a 21-20 advantage at halftime, South Carolina stormed out to a 13-3 run early in the second half which would see sophomore Brandis Raley-Ross record eight of his game-total 10 points. State responded with a 9-3 stretch of its own, as the final few minutes of regulation would prove intense.

MSU retook the lead at the 4:39 mark with a made three-pointer by Gordon, and a Holmes layup would re-tie the game at 47-47 with 1:54 remaining. Two Downey free throws put South Carolina up 49-47 with just 18 seconds left, and a following Gordon three-point attempt was tipped by Varnado and stuck between the rim and backboard with the possession arrow favoring USC. One made free throw by Elvadas Baniulis with seven seconds remaining was followed by the foul on Hansbrough, which sent the game to overtime.

Being held to just 30.8% from the floor, the Gamecocks were held by the nation's second-ranked field-goal percentage defense to their poorest shooting performance this season and a tie for their lowest point total of the season as USC dropped their first game during the campaign to a team from the SEC's Western Division.

Now leading the Western Division race by two games with just four contests remaining in the regular season, State will now return home to the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum to host the Auburn Tigers (13-11, 3-8) on Wednesday evening. Tipoff for the Feb. 27 meeting is set for 7 p.m. CT and the event will not be televised.

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