COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)—Mississippi State’s Branden Vincent didn’t even try for a rebound. He knew he didn’t need to with Timmy Bowers shooting.
Bowers’ 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left forced overtime and Vincent’s foul shot in the extra session lifted the sixth-ranked Bulldogs to a 79-75 victory over No. 25 South Carolina on Wednesday night.
Vincent dominated the boards all night with 18 rebounds, but he turned in the other direction as Bowers shot rose high in the air and softly swished through the nets.
“When it left his hand, it was never a doubt,” said Vincent, who finished with 13 points. “I knew it was going in. I’ve got faith in Timmy.”
And so did coach Rick Stansbury, who notched 20 wins for the fourth time in six seasons with the Bulldogs (20-1, 9-1 Southeastern Conference).
After Rolando Howell made two foul shots with 13 seconds to go to give the Gamecocks (19-5, 6-4) a 71-68 lead, Stansbury called for Bowers to carry the ball up just to the right of the key and fire away.
“There’s nobody better to take that shot,” Stansbury said.
For a long while, it didn’t look like Mississippi State would get a chance at any victory, let alone one in overtime.
The Bulldogs trailed 66-54 before a charged up crowd of 17,792 at the Colonial Center, most dressed in black for a “Blackout Mississippi State” effort.
But they closed regulation with a 17-5 run, capped by Bowers’ never-in-doubt 3-pointer.
“You expect great players to make those kind of plays,” South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. “You just don’t want them to do it against you.”
Still, South Carolina had chances to gain its first win over a ranked team in two seasons. Mike Boynton lost his dribble among two defenders as time ran out in regulation. The Gamecocks then went 1-of-6 from the field in overtime.
Vincent’s free throw put Mississippi State ahead 76-75 and South Carolina didn’t recover. Tarrance Kinsey missed a 3-pointer and Howell, who tied his career high with 24 points, missed a short shot as the Bulldogs held on for their seventh straight victory.
Lawrence Roberts had 20 points, including four in overtime, while Winsome Frazier scored nine of his 15 points in Mississippi State’s closing run. The victory moved the Bulldogs to 10-0 on the road this season, including 5-0 in the SEC.
Bowers didn’t have one of his best games, shooting 5-of-14 overall and 3-of-10 from 3-point range. His final field goal made up for that and more.
“We’re a team that’s never going to give up out there,” Bowers said. “We’re going to keep fighting and keep doing it. We’ve got a lot of players who can make plays.”
Frazier was the hero of Mississippi State’s comeback. He hit three baskets to cut South Carolina’s lead to 68-66, then stripped Tre Kelley and went in for an uncontested layup to tie the game. Frazier missed a chance to go ahead in regulation with 15 seconds left and picked up his fifth foul when he hit Howell’s arm.
Stansbury was hoarse as he talked after the game, his two young children crawling over him during the interview. He’s coached at Mississippi State as an assistant or head coach for 14 years and been with teams that went to the Final Four (1996), won the SEC tournament (2002) and the league’s Western Division (2003). Never, he says, has he had a tougher group that does not get fazed in difficult situations.
“I think it’s very obvious,” Stansbury said, smiling. “There’s no secret anymore. We’re a very good basketball team.”