Rebels Lose Heartbreaking Thriller To Rival Bulldogs

Jan 29, 2003

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By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP Sports Writer

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Being showered with paper cups and plastic bottles never felt so good to Derrick Zimmerman.

The Mississippi State guard went end to end for a layup with 1.7 seconds left to complete a wild final 90 seconds and give the No. 21 Bulldogs a 58-57 victory over Mississippi on Wednesday night.

Emmanuel Wade gave the Rebels (12-5, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) a 57-56 lead by converting a three-point play with 6.6 seconds left.

Zimmerman said he flashed back to the Bulldogs' last loss, an overtime defeat to Alabama in which they allowed a game-tying basket in the final seconds.

"I just said, `We're not going to lose this game,"' the senior said.

After Ole Miss called a timeout, the Bulldogs (13-4, 3-3) let Zimmerman do the rest. He took the inbounds pass and sped up the right side, racing past David Sanders and banking home an easy game-winner.

"I was thinking, `Get to the basket as quick as I can and make the shot,"' Zimmerman said.

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said the Bulldogs ran the play to perfection.

"There was no second option," he said.

Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said he put his best defender, Sanders, on Zimmerman because he figured Mississippi State would want its speedy point guard to take the last shot.

The Rebels managed to get off a desperation 3 from about halfcourt, but Aaron Harper missed way short and wide. And the Bulldogs made sure the Ole Miss student section knew about it.

Zimmerman, who finished with 12 points, stood near center court in front of the rowdy students with his arms up, then pointed into the crowd. Some of his teammates joined him and the students responded by throwing a few mostly empty soda cups and water bottles. At least one hit Zimmerman.

 

 

"It was scary, but it was pretty cool," Zimmerman said with a sly smile. "You've always got to show your emotions in these type of games."

Mississippi State has won three straight after starting the SEC season 0-3. The Rebels had their three-game winning streak snapped.

"We had a chance to make a stop. Make a stop and let's go home," Barnes said.

Mario Austin led Mississippi State with 16 points and Timmy Bowers had 15, including a baseline 6-foot floater that put the Bulldogs up 56-54 with 38.8 seconds left.

Justin Reed led Ole Miss on both ends with 17 points and four blocked shots, and Sanders added 14 points.

Reed and Sanders hit back-to-back 3s to wipe out a six-point Bulldogs' lead and tie the game at 54 with 1:20 left.

"They made big plays and we made big plays," Barnes said. "They just made the last one."

It was a typically tight game between the archrivals, who came into the game having split the last 14 meetings.

The Magnolia state schools pride themselves on defense - Mississippi State is No. 1 in the SEC in opponents' field-goal percentage and Ole Miss is third. They also rank No. 1 and No. 2 in points allowed, with the Rebels on top.

But surprisingly the offenses were on the mark, especially at the start. Just 12 minutes into the game, the Bulldogs and Rebels were both shooting over 60 percent from the field. Reed made his first four shots, hitting three straight baseline jumpers and a 3.

Reed had only five points in the second half but contributed on the defensive end with three blocked layup attempts by the Bulldogs. When the 6-foot-8 Reed stopped 7-footer Marcus Campbell from dunking, the fans at Tad Smith Coliseum went crazy.

Harper's 3-pointer from the right corner gave the Rebels a 48-47 lead with 7:20 left, their first since the first half.

But the Bulldogs came right back with Zimmerman penetrating and setting up Michael Ignerski for an easy layup. After a defensive stop by the Bulldogs, Austin got position in the paint on Derrick Allen, scored the easy basket and drew the foul. Austin's free throw bumped the Bulldogs' lead 52-48.

Mississippi State shot 53.3 percent and Ole Miss made 50 percent of its shots.

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