COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Mississippi State’s double-digit lead dwindled to two points in the final minute, and the team needed a steady hand to close out the game. Tyson Carter, who scored a game-high 15 points, provided it. He scored the Bulldogs’ final four points in a 67-63 victory over Missouri on Saturday.
“Tyson Carter was masterful down the stretch,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “If you go back and look at our game at Arkansas, he was incredible. Against South Carolina at home, he was great. Again today, we were giving him the ball and letting him make plays down the stretch.”
With the Bulldogs (19-10, 10-6 Southeastern Conference) leading 63-61 with 45 seconds left, Carter drove into the lane from the left wing and finished with a finger-roll layup.
“They had cut it to a one-possession game,” Carter said. “I wanted to make a play. When I got into the lane, I saw it open up a little bit, so I just took it to the basket.”
On Mississippi State’s next possession, he made two free throws to maintain a safe lead. Reggie Perry and Nick Weatherspoon each scored 12 points for the Bulldogs, who shot 53.2% from the field.
Xavier Pinson led Missouri (14-15, 6-10) with 20 points, and Dru Smith had 19 points and nine rebounds. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the rest of their starting lineup combined for seven points.
“We can’t have a level of success with X and Dru playing 35 or 40 minutes. That’s exhausting,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We can’t have that many guys with zeroes.”
Mississippi State led 41-34 at halftime and extended its lead to 11 points with 12 minutes left in the game. Missouri responded with a 9-0 run, capped by Mitchell Smith’s follow-dunk of a Pinson miss. Pinson tied the game at 53 with a pull-up jumper in transition.
The Tigers never got the lead, though. They did cut the deficit to two points on Dru Smith’s drive with 1:59 left. But Carter had the late answers.
“I was really happy for Tyson Carter,” Howland said. “He’s our one senior, and he plays like a senior.”
ABYSMAL BEYOND THE ARC
When these teams met in January, Mississippi State dared Missouri to make 3-pointers. The Tigers made just 5 of 25 from beyond the arc and lost by 27 points. It was the same story Saturday, as Missouri made just 6 of 29 from 3-point range.
“Our defense was incredible,” Howland said. “They had some good looks from 3 that they didn’t make — thank you, Lord.”
Martin didn’t quibble too much with his team’s shot selection. He said the Missouri players who practice outside shooting should take those shots when they’re open. Martin was confused when forward Jeremiah Tilmon, who had attempted just one 3-pointer all season, inexplicably launched a 3 during crunch time.
“He’s not practicing that shot, unless he’s in there at 2 in the morning,” Martin said.
Missouri: The loss to Mississippi State was just the third time in conference action that Tilmon and Mark Smith both played. Tilmon and Smith were expected to be the stars of the team entering the season, but Tilmon missed 14 games with a foot injury and Smith sat out seven with a back injury. Tilmon showed signs of his old self against the Bulldogs, scoring seven points in 21 minutes. He helped hold Perry to four points in the second half after Missouri changed its defensive assignment.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs began the day 54th in the NCAA’s NET rankings and were listed as one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament in the mock bracket of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. With the win at Missouri, Mississippi State kept hope alive. It still needs to finish the regular season strong and do some damage in the SEC Tournament to feel good about its chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri: The Tigers play at Mississippi on Wednesday.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs visit South Carolina on Tuesday.
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