OXFORD — A week which started with NCAA Tournament aspirations for Mississippi State basketball nearly ended in disaster Saturday in a matchup against woeful Ole Miss. The veterans for the Bulldogs had different plans.
It started in the final minute when junior guard Shakeel Moore hit a pair of free throws to tie the game. It extended to the next possession when senior forward Tolu Smith caught the ball outside the paint and made a determined drive to tie the game again. Graduate transfer Eric Reed Jr. kept the momentum rolling with a stout defensive possession to force overtime.
In overtime, it was senior guard Dashawn Davis who opened the scoring with a jumper and senior forward D.J. Jeffries who followed it up with a wild 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
It took a cumulative effort from MSU's most experienced players, but it was enough to secure an ugly 69-61 overtime win.
Easy looks jumpstart Mississippi State, turnovers flip script
Mississippi State (18-9, 6-8 SEC) was cruising from the tip − forcing Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis to call two timeouts before the first media timeout.
The Bulldogs were getting easy looks, connecting on their first nine layups and dunks against the Rebels (10-17, 2-12). Five players scored for MSU in the first nine minutes – helping stretch the lead to as much as 10.
However, despite shooting 62% from the field and holding a 17-12 edge on the boards, Mississippi State saw the lead turn into a deficit by halftime. The Bulldogs collected 11 turnovers in the opening period, leading to 13 points on the other end.
Matthew Murrell scored 13 of Ole Miss’ 33 first-half points.
Tolu Smith posts impressive numbers
Ole Miss threw a variety of looks at Smith and still struggled to slow him down. Smith has found a groove in the homestretch of the season, and his 17 points against the Rebels − including two to force overtime − kept his hot streak going.
However, his impact stretched beyond the scoring and helped ignite MSU’s early success. With Ole Miss throwing double teams at Smith, the senior forward succeeded in finding his open teammate.
Smith finished with five assists. His season-high entering the contest was six in a November win against Marquette. Smith hauled in 12 rebounds – marking his eighth double-double of the season.
Mississippi State stays on the road to face Missouri on Tuesday (6 p.m., SEC Network). The Bulldogs beat the Tigers in Starkville two weeks ago.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi State basketball takes down rival Ole Miss in overtime