After a thrilling overtime win at Arkansas earlier in the week, Ole Miss was unable to win another nail-biting contest at home, as the Rebels fell to in-state rival Mississippi State 82-80 Saturday.
"Today was what this rivalry is supposed to be about," said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. "I thought it was a very hard-fought game. Both games in this series have been like that – gutsy and gritty. Both teams fought to the bitter end, but we came up two points short."
Despite scoring seven points in the game's final 44 seconds, a last-second attempt by freshman Terrico White from half-court bounced innocently off the rim, giving Ole Miss its 14th loss on the year.
The Rebels are now 16-14 overall and 7-9 in SEC play. White led the Rebels offensively, scoring 21 points on 6-for-16 shooting in the loss.
"Terrico had some looks, but I thought he settled a little bit," Kennedy said. "We were trying to get him to put pressure on the rim, but it's hard to be disappointed in him with the year he's had."
Ole Miss will now face either Vanderbilt or Kentucky in next week's SEC Tournament in Tampa, Fla., depending on the outcome of Sunday's game between Alabama and Tennessee at 11 a.m.
The Rebels won the rebounding battle 36-31, but the Bulldog bench proved to be a deciding factor. Mississippi State got 27 points from reserves in the win, compared to 23 for the home team.
"I thought Rick's bench was outstanding," Kennedy said. "He got major contributions from guys like Kodi Augustus and Romero Osby. Their bench really sustained them in the first half."
Free throws were a downfall for both teams. The Bulldogs missed nine of 37, while the Rebels missed 11 of 35.
With the win, the Bulldogs (19-12, 9-7) clinched third-place in the SEC Western Division and will meet No. 6 seeded Georgia in the first round of the conference tournament.
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury broke the school record for most games coached in Bulldog history (354), and he was pleased with the hard-fought victory.
"First off, it was a great college basketball game," Stansbury said. "Two great teams went at it, but we just happened to have the ball last and found a way to win."
Stansbury said his team has continued to progress as the season has moved on, and it showed in wins this week over Florida and Ole Miss.
"I'm very proud of our team," said Stansbury. "As many of you know, we've had some very difficult losses this year. Sometimes it's not really easy to stay together and keep believing. But this team deserves a lot of credit for doing that."
The Rebels used an 18-10 start to pull ahead early in the contest. However, the Bulldogs went on a 10-5 spurt to pull within one at 21-20 with just under nine minutes left before halftime.
With the score tied at 27-27, Bulldog Barry Stewart and Rebel David Huertas went on a scoring tear all their own, scoring six-straight points apiece for their respective teams. Ole Miss led 35-33, but was outscored 9-7 the rest of the first half. The game was even 42-42 at intermission.
It was all Malcolm White to start the second, with the sophomore scoring the Rebels' first seven points of the half. With Ole Miss holding a 51-48 lead with 15:56 left in regulation and Terrico on the bench with his third foul, Malcolm came up big yet again.
After grabbing a board on a miss by freshman Murphy Holloway, White was able to draw the fourth foul on Jarvis Varnado at the 15:29 mark.
The play wouldn't prove critical, however, despite the nation's leading shot-blocker not returning to the game until a little over four minutes remained. State held a 71-69 advantage with 3:13 to play.
Neither team lead by more than eight points in the second half, with the Bulldogs doing just enough to secure the victory. After Terrico pulled his team within two at 79-77, State's Riley Benock connected on two free throws for a four-point lead at 81-77 with 22 seconds to go.
A three-pointer by Terrico with nine seconds left cut the lead to one at 81-80 after a Benock turnover. After an Ole Miss foul with three seconds left, freshman Dee Bost converted one-of-two free throws to give the Bulldogs a lead of 82-80.
Terrico White's final gasp couldn't find the net, as Ole Miss fell at home for only the fourth time this season.
Malcolm White tied for a career-high in points with 20 on 7-of-8 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. White also added nine rebounds.
Murphy Holloway posted his sixth double-double of the year with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Zach Graham also had 16 for Ole Miss and Huertas 10. The junior guard was hobbled again in this game with a foot bruise and played just 16 minutes.
Stewart and Bost led MSU with 17 and 13 respectively.
Non-scholarship seniors Ryan Brown and Patrick Spach drew starts in the game on Senior Day, but were subbed out at the 19:41 mark to a standing ovation by the 9,030 fans in attendance.
Mississippi State now holds an all-time series lead of 134-105 in the SEC's most-played rivalry. The teams have split the season series in each of the last four years. Ole Miss won on Jan. 31 in Starkville 67-63.
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