NEWARK, N.J. – 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.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard II opened the scoring just 12 seconds into the game with a 3-pointer, as the Bulldogs took a 7-2 advantage into the first media timeout at the 15:09 mark.
K-State tied the game at 7-all after a pair of free throws from junior Levi Stockard III and a corner 3-pointer from junior Mike McGuirl with 14:24 to play before halftime. The team battled through another tie before junior Cartier Diarra gave the Wildcats their first lead at 12-11 with a corner 3-pointer at the 11:59 mark.
After a free throw tied the score at 12-all, K-State rattled off 7 straight points, keyed by another 3-pointer from Diarra, to take a 19-12 advantage with 9:46 to play. Back-to-back 3-pointers from senior Xavier Sneed and McGuirl pushed the lead to 25-15 and forced MSU head coach Ben Howland to call his first timeout at the 8:18 mark.
The lead stood at 12 after two McGuirl free throws, but the Bulldogs used a 6-0 run to close the deficit to within 27-21 with 4:55 remaining. A third 3-pointer by McGuirl spelled the momentum on the next possession.
However, MSU responded to the McGuirl 3 with an 8-0 run to close to within 30-29 and force head coach Bruce Weber to use his timeout with 1:07 before halftime. The timeout didn’t halt as a free throw by Woodard tied the game at 30-all. A pair of free throws by freshman Antonio Gordon gave the Wildcats the lead at 32-30 but a layup by freshman Iverson Molinar with 6 seconds tied the game at 32-all at the half.
Six of K-State’s eight field goals in the first half came from 3-point range, as the Wildcats connected on 38.1 percent (8-of-21) from the field, including 54.5 percent (6-of-11) from 3-point range. The team took advantage of their opportunities from the free throw line, hitting 10 of 14 free throws. MSU hit on 42.9 percent (12-of-28) of its field goals in the first half, including 37.5 percent (3-of-8) from long range.
McGuirl led all scorers with 11 points on 3-of-3 field goals, all from 3-point range, in the first half, while Diarra added 8 points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-4 from long range. Woodard paced the Bulldogs with 9 points.
The two teams traded the lead in the early going of the second half, as a Diarra lay-up gave K-State a 40-38 edge into the first media timeout at the 15:16 mark.
After MSU tied it at 41-all, K-State sprinted back ahead with 4 consecutive points on a Diarra layup and a pair of free throws by Sneed for a 45-41 edge with 12:17 to play. The lead grew to 49-43 on a jumper by Sneed and a driving layup by junior David Sloan at the 9:56 mark.
A free throw by Antonio Gordon gave the Wildcats a 52-45 lead with 8:27 remaining, the Bulldogs slowly chipped away to tie the game at 55-all on two free throws by sophomore Reggie Perry with 5:05 to play.
K-State had a 58-55 lead going into the final media timeout at the 3:51 mark on pair of free throws by Diarra, but MSU scored 6 straight points to take a 61-58 edge and force Weber to call a timeout with 2:19 to play.
The Wildcats could not get closer the rest of the way, as the Bulldogs closed it out by hitting 3 of their last 4 free throws to earn the 67-61 victory.
MSU connected on 36.7 percent (11-of-20) in the second half with 10 of the 11 field goals coming inside the arc, while K-State hit on just 27.3 percent (6-of-22) from the field, including all 7 3-point field goals. The Wildcats were helped by the free throw line, as they hit on 77.3 percent (17-of-22) from the line.
Diarra scored 12 of his game-high 20 points after halftime on 2-of-4 field goals and 8-of-10 free throws. Abdul Ado led the Bulldogs with 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go with 6 rebounds in the second half.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Junior Cartier Diarra led all scorers with a game-high 20 points on 5-of-10 field goals, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range, while hitting on 8-of-12 free throws. He went without an assist for the first time this season.
Junior Mike McGuirl also scored in double figures with 14 points on 4-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-5 from long range, and a 3-of-4 effort from the free throw line.
STAT(S) OF THE GAME
14 – After averaging nearly 30 points per game in the paint, K-State had just 14 against Mississippi State. The Wildcats connected on just 32 percent (8-of-25) from inside the 3-point arc.
IN THEIR WORDS
K-State Head Coach Bruce Weber
On the game…
“I thought we made some progress. You know, we’re giving ourselves a chance. I think Mississippi State’s a good team; they’ve got some really good players. I know they’re going to get another player to make them even tougher. I think we’re making some strides. You always question. We used the bench quite a bit the first half, didn’t do it quite a bit or as much in the second half. Maybe it needed a little more bench play and have a little more confidence on those guys in the second half. Maybe that gives us a little more depth and rest some guys and maybe they play a little better and maybe little mistakes won’t happen.”
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- K-State fell to 0-3 on neutral courts this season following losses to Pittsburgh and Bradley at the Fort Myers Tip-off on November 25 and 27.
- Head coach Bruce Weber is now 156-93 at K-State, 469-248 overall.
- K-State is now 3-1 all-time against Mississippi State, including the first at a neutral site… This was the first meeting between the schools since 1994.
- K-State is now 166-151 all-time teams from the SEC, including 30-18 at neutral sites.
- The Wildcats’ starting lineup consisted of juniors Cartier Diarra and Mike McGuirl, senior Xavier Sneed, freshman Antonio Gordon and senior Makol Mawien… This was the seventh time using this lineup.
- Sneed has now played in 115 career games, including 82 starts (43 consecutive)… Mawien has played and started in every game in his career, which now stretches to 81… Diarra has now played in 73 games, including 41 starts (12 consecutive)… McGuirl has now played in 56 career games, including 12 starts… This was the sixth career start for Gordon.
- Junior Levi Stockard III was the first player off the bench.
- Freshman Montavious Murphy did not play for the eighth consecutive game after sustaining an injury against Monmouth on Nov. 13… Junior James Love III and sophomore Nigel Shadd have missed all 10 games this season due to injuries.
- K-State connected on just 32.6 percent (14-of-43) from the field, including 33.3 percent (6-of-18) from 3-point range, knocked down 75 percent (27-of-36) from the free throw line.
- K-State set season-highs for free throws made (27) and attempted (36).
- K-State set season-lows for points in the paint (14) and bench points (10).
- K-State connected 54.5 percent (6-of-11) from 3-point range in the first half before missing on all 7 attempts in the second half.
- K-State managed a season-low 7 assists, while turning the ball over 16 times.
- Junior Cartier Diarra scored a game-high 20 points, including 12 in the second half, on 5-of-10 field goals, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and 8-of-12 free throws… It marked his second career 20-point game, which also happen in this season’s opener vs. North Dakota State… He has now led the team in scoring in 5 career games, including 4 this season… He has now scored in double figures in 23 career games, including 6 this season… He set career-bests for free throws made (8) and attempted (12).
- Junior Mike McGuirl scored 14 points on 4-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and 3-of-4 from the free throw line… He has now scored in double figures in 5 career games, including 3 this season.
- Freshman Antonio Gordon grabbed a team-high and career-high 9 rebounds.
K-State will take a week off for final exams before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 21 by hosting reigning Atlantic 10 Tournament champion Saint Louis (8-1) in the Wildcat Classic at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The game will tip at 6 p.m., CT on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.