POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE:
MSU Coach Rick Stansbury:
"I want to start off by giving Ole Miss a lot of credit. They came in here with a five-game losing streak and basically playing for their lives. We knew it would be a very tough basketball game. I thought that they did a terrific job of stepping up and making big shots over and over again. Everytime we would spurt out, Ole Miss would make big shots. Give them a lot of credit. Rod (Barnes) had his team ready to play.
"I'm proud of our team (even though) we didn't play our best today. There were about six shots that rolled off of our fingertips and around the rim. They weren't shots that were contested but just layups. That was an opportunity for us to get up 6, 8, 10 or 12 at halftime.
"I thought that Branden Vincent came off our bench and did a terrific job defensively for us. (Aaron) Harper didn't make a three on him. I think their team was 6 for 8 behind the three-point line in the second half, but I thought that Branden really came in and did a terrific job for us.
"We fouled out (Winsome) Frazier early in the second half and we had to play some guys that were very tired. To our kids credit, they stepped up and made some timely plays over and over again to answer everything Ole Miss did."
Q and A:
Was the first half good defense or bad offense?
"We were pleased with our defensive play. We just gave up 21 points. Offensively, for us, we just missed a lot of little layups, open shots that would have put us up by 10 points in the first half. That would have got us a cushion and may have relaxed us some. I thought that we played uptight for whatever reason."
What was the explanation for the clock change in the second half?
"They shot the ball at 23 seconds. That was the first decision that they made. That meant there were 12 seconds left on the shot clock. But we said that after they shot it they dribbled it out and kept control of the basketball. They settled with 5 seconds, which meant there were 7 seconds left on the shot clock. That was the right call because the ball never hit the rim."
Talk about Ontario's play at the end of overtime.
"He made a big drive along the baseline. That is what you have to have, guys making big plays answering their big plays. They made big play after big play. (Justin) Reed jumped up and made big shots. (Emmanuel) Wade jumped up and made the shot. When they do that, you have to keep answering. I think the big play was when we came down and got Mario (Austin) off that little flex cut and got a three point play out of it. That was a huge play. Branden Vincent made a great pass to Mario to get that play."
With them reeling and your team playing so well, did you expect a game like this?
"Absolutely. You can forget which team is playing better, which team is playing worse. You can forget the records. Ole Miss came in and played really loose. When you play loose, you shoot the basketball. They hung around long enough because of our inability early in the game to put them away when we had some easy baskets."
What does it say about your team to grit one out like this?
"I just told my team in everybody's schedule when you are trying to fight for a championship, you have to survive games like this. I thought that our kids survived one without playing our best. We played hard. We played extremely hard, but offensively we missed some easy shots that normally we make. Because of that, we never got to run in transition. We never got the game separated a little bit, 7, 8, 9 points where you can loosen up and get to running. But it is good when you can dig out a game like this, a tough hard-fought game."
With your win tonight and Auburn's loss, that puts your team in a two-way tie for first with Auburn, a team you play at Auburn Wednesday night.
"There is a lot of basketball to be played. The outcome Wednesday night won't determine who will win the West but it is a great opportunity for us to go on the road and face the team that we are fighting for first place with. There is no question that our kids will be ready for that opportunity."
Winsome Frazier didn't practice much this week. Talk about his play.
"He only played 14 minutes before he fouled out. He wasn't himself. He got five quick fouls and that hurt us. He hadn't practiced all week. We got him out a little bit Thursday and Friday."
I was surprised that they stayed so close to you guys after you blew out the last two teams that you faced.
"We had a whole week off. When you have a whole week off, you kind of get out of sync with your offense. We had to get the rust out early."
So, they weren't really doing something defensively to shut you guys down?
"No, we were controlling ourselves. We kept them in the game rather than them holding us down. We were getting good looks but we weren't making the baskets."
Talk a little about the second half.
"The second half was very intense. We knew we had to pick up the pressure. They were trying to save their season and we are trying to be number one in the West."
You guys now go to Auburn to play for number one in the West. How will you guys get over such an emotional win over your in-state rival?
"We are going to take whatever momentum we can from this game into our next game and play our best at Auburn."
Talk about the upcoming game against Auburn.
"You can expect a good crowd. Their guys are going to play hard. Their coach does a real good job with them. They are probably the surprise team of the conference right now because of where they are. There will be a lot on the line since we will be playing for first place."
On paper this game should have been a blowout. Does it surprise you that it wound up being this close of a game?
"I haven't really been involved in many rival games that have been blowouts. With these type games you have to be concerned about each possession. It came down to a possession game. We probably should have won it in regulation but we didn't and came back and won it in overtimes."
On that last possession where you turned (Trey) Pearson and caused him to carry the ball, did you say to yourself that he is a freshman and I can make him make a mistake?
"I really didn't say that he is a freshman. I just wanted to turn him and turn him a little bit, which is something that I have been taught since I was little. It just so happened that he made a mistake and got called for a carry call. That was probably the turning point in the game."
Do you feel pretty good about where this team is right now?
"We started off 0-3. Anytime you go from 0-3 to where we are now, we are obviously doing something right. We can do some things better. This game was an ugly game."
You missed a dunk in the first half and there were some other easy misses by the team. Were you guys uptight about something?
"I don't know. That is the second dunk that I have missed this year. I missed a lob about two games ago. It is just one of those things. We missed a lot of chip shots early which cost us a bigger lead going into halftime. We played more efficient in the second half."
You aren't from Mississippi but you appeared to be very, very intense throughout this rivalry game.
"This was my last time to play Ole Miss in front of the Mississippi State fans. I was intense during the game."
How do you guys come down from such an intense game and get ready for a game that will put the winner in first place all by themselves?
"Good teams can delve on this tonight but tomorrow is a work day. We just get ready to go to Auburn and get ourselves a win."
In your opinion, what caused you guys to miss so many easy inside shots?
"I can't really tell you what it was. Stuff happens. I missed a layup. Harp missed a layup. Z missed a dunk. You just have to come back down on defense and get stops and hopefully go back down and get a basket."
Do you feel that after a couple of blowout games, you needed to be tested again to get back that late game toughness?
"Yeah, I think so. We needed a good, tough defensive game that went to the wire."
You appeared so calm when you went to the foul line in overtime.
"Free throws are something that I have become better at in conference play. I just try to step to the line with confidence knowing that I will knock the shot down. I don't worry about the crowd or worry about what the score is."
How much did the crowd help late in the game?
"It helped us out a lot, especially on the defensive sequence where Z made Pearson turned the ball over. It was so loud then I couldn't hear anything. The crowd tonight was tremendous. We want to thank everybody who came to the game."
I noticed you and Justin Reed were talking quite a bit to each other during some parts of the game. What were you guys talking about?
"We were talking about how hot it was out there. It was hot. We were about to fall out out there. Justin and I have known each other since high school. We were just talking about how we were doing in school and how their program was coming along."
Did you think you were fouled near the end of regulation play when there were about 2 or 3 people on you? Did you say something to Justin about fouling you and getting away with one?
"Yeah, I told him that. I told him he got away with one then. The next time there is going to be more argument than that. I think I got hacked but that is part of the game."
It seemed like in the first half you were missing some easy close in shots. Were you getting frustrated missing them?
"They were doing a lot of pushing my elbow when I was shooting and they weren't calling them. I told (the officials) to watch them. I wasn't getting down on myself."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at email@example.com