A 7-0 run by Mississippi State out of the last media timeout provided the necessary push to lift the Bulldogs to a 67-61 win over Kansas State in the fourth annual Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon.
Leading 58-55 after a pair of free throws by junior Cartier Diarra with 3:51 to play, redshirt freshman guard D.J. Stewart connected on buckets on consecutive possessions to give Mississippi State (7-2) the lead for good at 59-58 with 3:11 to play. A jumper by senior guard Tyson Carter and a free throw by sophomore Robert Woodard II finished off the 7-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 62-58 lead with 2:04 to play.
K-State (6-4) had one last opportunity, trailing 64-61 with 50 seconds to play, but a turnover by freshman Antonio Gordon after he grabbed the rebound on a missed shot by Carter ended any hopes of a comeback.
In all, MSU scored 22 of the game’s last 31 points, including 12 of the last 15, to win a game at the Never Forget Tribute Classic for the second consecutive season.
The Wildcats were hampered by a more than 9-minute second-half field goal drought, which included 9 consecutive misses starting at the 7:52 mark and lasting until junior guard Mike McGuirl’s layup with 50 seconds.
For the game, K-State connected on just 32.6 percent (14-of-43) from the field, including 27.3 percent (6-of-22) in the second half. The Wildcats did take advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line, knocking down a season-high 27 of 36 attempts from the stripe for a 75 percent clip.
Diarra scored a game-high 20 points, including 12 in the second half, on 5-of-10 field goals and 8-of-12 free throws, while McGuirl was the other Wildcat in double figures with 14 points on 4-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. McGuirl did most of his damage in the first half with 12 points on 3-of-3 shooting.
Carter’s 14 points led a balanced offensive attack for the Bulldogs, as four players scored in double figures, along with junior Abdul Ado (13), Woodard (12) and Stewart (10). Woodard also registered a game-high 10 rebounds for the double-double, while Ado nearly missed a double-double with 9 rebounds.