Bulldogs Fall To Georgia In SEC Tourney, 71-61
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Now the wait begins.
Mississippi State will spend the weekend waiting to see if it receives an at-large bid to this year's NCAA Tournament. The Basketball Bulldogs find themselves in this precarious position after being upset 71-61 by the Georgia in an opening-round game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Thursday night at New Orleans Arena.
Georgia now owns six wins against conference opponents this season; however, two of those wins came at the expense of MSU. After a shocking 70-68 overtime loss to Georgia in Starkville, MSU came out on the short end again Thursday night, as the east coast Bulldogs expanded a two-point halftime lead to as many as 13 points in the game's final 20 minutes.
Georgia (15-16), the 11th seed in this year's tournament, will now face third-seeded Vanderbilt (21-10) at 9 p.m. Friday night in the tournament quarterfinals. MSU (21-11), the sixth seed, will now await a decision by the NCAA selection committee late Sunday to determine its postseason fate.
MSU last made the NCAA Tournament in 2009. Thursday's loss meant MSU dropped its opening game in the conference tournament for a second straight season.
"Hopefully, the selection committee will look at our entire body of work," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "This team is one of the 68 best in the country. They deserve a chance to play in the (NCAA) Tournament."
Georgia built an early 5-1 lead before MSU responded with a 13-2 run to grab a 14-7 advantage. The run was capped by a Wendell Lewis putback and also included a pair of baskets from Jalen Steele. The Maroon and White continued the early push and had a game-best lead at 23-15 after a Rodney Hood jumper with 7:00 left before halftime.
From there, the Maroon and White struggled to keep up on both ends of the floor. Georgia hit 50 percent of its first-half shots and ended the half on a 16-6 run. Thanks to that spree, Georgia led 31-29 at halftime.
"We had difficulty getting a rhythm on the defensive end," Stansbury said. "We gave up too many easy baskets on the defensive end. Once we got down in the second half, we struggled to make stops."
Georgia did even better than its 50 percent first half with a 52 percent second half. These Bulldogs hit four second half 3-point baskets, including a 3-of-6 night from long range for Dustin Ware.
At one time, Georgia hit seven straight shots from the field. A long-range 3 from Ware placed Georgia in its biggest lead of the game at 49-36 with 11:51 left in the contest.
The Maroon and White got it back to eight before falling down double digits again. A 9-1 run again included a couple of Steele baskets and brought MSU within 60-57 with 3:44 left.
MSU followed with back-to-back turnovers on its next two possessions and got no closer.
For the contest, MSU hit 21 of 55 shots from the field (38.2 percent), 7 of 24 shots from 3-point range (29.2 percent) and 12 of 15 shots from the foul line (80.0 percent). Georgia hit 26 of 51 shots from the field (51.0 percent), 7 of 19 shots from 3-point range (36.8 percent) and 12 of 19 shots from the foul line (63.2 percent).
MSU held a 37-29 rebounding advantage. MSU had 14 assists and 14 turnovers, while Georgia had 13 assists and seven turnovers.
Georgia received 23 points from Gerald Robinson, 13 points from Ware, 13 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 11 points from Donte' Williams and 11 points from Nemanja Djurisic. Amazingly enough, Djurisic posted his squad's first double-double of the season, as he also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.