NEW ORLEANS (TICKER) —Mario Austin had 12 of his 19 points in the second half as No. 25 Mississippi State edged intrastate rival Mississippi, 73-64, in a Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup.
The Bulldogs, who won this tournament a year ago, closed the first half with an 18-10 burst and never were headed. Timmy Bowers and and Derrick Zimmerman had 14 points apiece for Mississippi State (20-8), which advances to face Louisiana State in a semifinal matchup Saturday.
Mississippi State shot a season-high 59 percent (23-of-39) in the contest and has reached the SEC Tournament semifinals four times in the last eight seasons.
“I am very pleased with this team after getting this win and especially getting this win against such a good Ole Miss team,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “A game like this one is more then just a regular game because there is a lot more emotion.”
Justin Reed had 22 points - 20 in the second half - for Mississippi (14-15), which had its postseason hopes ended during a first half in which it shot 28 percent (7-of-25).
“I felt very confident coaching the guys I have,” said Mississippi coach Rod Barnes, who was tagged with a losing record for the first time in five seasons. “For the most part I feel they played very hard, being that Mississippi State is a tough game for us.”
Ole Miss concluded its season with loss in 11 of its final 13 games, erasing a promising 12-4 start. The Rebels also dropped all three meetings with the Bulldogs this season.
“After already beating them twice this season, we knew it was going to be a good game and we knew how difficult it would be to beat them a third time,” Stansbury said “I am just extremely pleased with this team right now.”
“Any time you play a rival and especially for the third time in a season, its going to be a tough game to win,” Zimmerman said. “I think that everything was really against us but the third time was a charm and we came out on top. As a team we really responded well and played with great strength and intensity for the victory.”
The game was tied 10-10 following a 3-pointer by Mississippi’s Trey Pearson 5:44 into the contest. Austin had a three-point play and jumper 41 seconds apart to spark the 18-10 run.
Seven different players scored during the burst, which was capped by a layup by Winsome Frazier that gave the Bulldogs a 28-20 edge with 37 seconds to go in the half.
Mississippi State shot 48 percent (10-of-21) in the first half and took advantage of an Ole Miss squad that went 2-of-11 from beyond the arc over the opening 20 minutes.
The Rebels had just one assist in the first half.
Any hope Mississippi had of getting back into the game over the final 20 minutes evaporated when the Bulldogs started the second half with an 8-0 run. Austin had a jumper to start the burst and capped it with a free throw with 16:31 left.
Mississippi State took its biggest lead of the contest, 47-27, with just under 11 minutes left and cruised down the stretch.
“I think we did a good job as team today especially in defending and rebounding the ball.” Austin said. “I think it was a great victory for us and as a team we played a good as we needed to play to get the win.”
Reed refused to blame the fact that his team had to play on Thursday.
“In a situation like this, we can’t think about being tired,” he said. “Our backs were against the wall because of the way our season played out. We weren’t tired.”