Bulldogs upset Rebels on buzzer beater

Mississippi State led big early in the second half but the Ole Miss Rebels came all the way back, only to lose to their arch-rivals for the second straight year in Oxford.

With the way Mississippi State assistant coach Errol Rogers had celebrated, one would have thought the Bulldogs had just won the national championship.

While Sunday's contest between the Ole Miss Rebels (16-6, 5-2 SEC) and in-state rivals Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-8, 4-3) was a shootout, the whole game came down to one last shot; with State coming out on top 73-71.

"You're just not going to win many SEC ballgames turning the ball over and shooting fifty-something percent from the foul line. Those two things combined we could not overcome," Ole Miss head coach Carol Ross said. "Every time you step on the court in our league anybody can win and anybody can lose and that's what makes our league so great."

Ole Miss started the game hot, jumping out to a 9-2 lead and out-rebounding the visiting Bulldogs at one point 11-4 early on.

State began chipping away at the Rebs' lead and made a game of it, taking its first lead of the game at 17-16 on a Lauren Roberts three-point basket.

After back-to-back threes by Amy Reeder and Roberts, State had crept out to a 33-26 lead in the first half.

The first half ended with the Rebels scoring five of the last seven points, all on free throws, with the Bulldogs ahead 35-31.

Throughout the first half there was an abundance of turnovers as Ole Miss committed 13 and State had 16.

In the first half Ole Miss shot an abysmal 29.4 percent, going 10-for-34 from the field compared to State's 46.7 percent.

The wheels just fell off for the Rebels to open the second half, as Mississippi State seemed like it could do no wrong.

State jumped out to a 54-36 lead early in the second half, in large part because of four three-point baskets and the Rebels' inability to score. With Alexis Rack's three-pointer to put State up 54-36, the Bulldogs had made 21 of their last 31 shots, after missing their first seven to start the competition.

Momentum swung back in favor of the Rebs after Rack's shot with a 17-2 Ole Miss run, capitalized by an Armintie Price put-back following a free throw miss by Danetra Forrest to put the Rebels down only 56-53.

Ashley Awkward knotted the game up at 59 for a team that had once been down by 18 with a jumper down the lane while getting fouled.

On the Rebels very next possession Forrest's lay-up put the Rebels back in the driver's seat, giving Ole Miss a 61-59 advantage.

Ole Miss and State would trade baskets for the remainder of the game, trading the lead back and forth.

With six seconds left Ashley Awkward hit a three from the top of the key to tie the game at 71, erupting the Tad Smith Coliseum crowd.

However, the Bulldogs inbounded the ball quickly, driving the length of the court. With time expiring Marneshia Richard hit a jumper just inside the top of the arch to give Mississippi State a 73-71 win.

The play was reviewed, but stood as originally called on the court, giving the Bulldogs their third conference win.

"(It) was a tremendous team win for us. If you had said we were going to be up like we were at the beginning of the second half…then I would have said something has happened," Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning said. "That was a little a-typical from what we expected."

Rack led her squad with 18 points and seven rebounds while Richard had 15 points of her own, shooting 6-of-11 from the field; with no shot more important than her shot as time expired.

"My first thought was just like get it past the first initial defenders and get a good look off," said Richard describing her game-winning shot. "When I looked up it was three seconds so I tried to get close to the basket and let it go and it went in."

Richard had had the same opportunity against the University of Kentucky at the end of the first overtime last Thursday, but missed. State still won the game in the second OT.

"At Kentucky I had the same kind of shot, like coach said, but I missed it," Richard said. "If I got the same opportunity I didn't want to miss it again, so I let it go, had confidence, and it went in."

Awkward had a game-high 19 points for Ole Miss, shooting 8-of-16.

"We probably got too excited because we hit the shot and didn't think they had enough time to score," Awkward said about the last few seconds of the game. "Hopefully that's a lesson that we've learned that it's not over until it's over."

After Richard's shot to win the game, along with the rest of the Mississippi State team and staff, assistant coach Rogers celebrated. Rogers slid feet-first, as if on a Slip-n-Slide, over the Ole Miss emblem at center court.

"Everybody celebrates in their own way, and I think that was just an emotional reaction to a hard-fought and buzzer-beating basket," Ross said.

After the shot was reviewed, Rogers, who had not kept his excitement a secret earlier, did a summersault with a fist-pump in jubilation that the play stood.

The Lady Rebels' next action will be Thursday when they hit the court in Gainesville, Fla. to take on the Florida Gators. The game will start at 6 p.m.

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