Rebels Fall To Mississippi State In SEC Tourney Quarterfinals, 73-64
March 14, 2003
By PAUL NEWBERRY
NEW ORLEANS - Mississippi State began the quest to repeat as Southeastern Conference tournament champion with a typically defensive performance, beating Mississippi 73-64 Friday in the quarterfinals.
The Bulldogs (20-8) looked every bit like the team that ranked second in the SEC in points allowed. They advanced to meet LSU, a 65-61 winner over No. 7 Florida, in Saturday's semifinals.
Using its advantage in height and bulk, State rarely let the Rebels (14-15) get inside. While Ole Miss was hoisting long jumpers, the Bulldogs were making dunks and layups.
Mario Austin, who announced earlier in the week he will return for his senior season, scored 19 points. Derrick Zimmerman and Timmy Bowers added 14 points apiece.
Mississippi State made 23-of-39 shots from the field, a 59 percent success rate that could be attributed largely to 34 points in the lane. On the other hand, Ole Miss connected on just 23-of-60 (38.3 percent), managing a measly 16 points in the paint.
Leading 28-20 at the half, the Bulldogs took control by scoring the first 10 points of the second half. It was vintage basketball: Zimmerman dunked, Austin dropped in a shot underneath and Michal Ignerski, stepping outside when the defense sagged, swished a 3-pointer.
At the other end, Ole Miss struggled just to get off a shot. Trey Pearson was forced to put up a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, but Zimmerman got a hand on it. The senior guard pumped his fist and glared toward State's fan section.
Ignerski then swatted away a shot by Justin Reed, igniting a fast break that resulted in another dunk for Zimmerman. Austin finished off the run with a free throw, giving State a 38-20 lead with 16:31 remaining.
The Bulldogs pushed the margin to 47-27 before Ole Miss rallied. Pressuring the ball over the court, the Rebels outscored State 15-2 over a three-minute period to make a game of it.
But State never allowed Ole Miss to get closer than seven.
Reed scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half to lead Ole Miss. Derrick Allen had 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Mississippi State, considered a lock for the NCAA tournament no matter how it does in New Orleans, wasn't taking any chances against its state rival. The teams were meeting for the 227th time, but this was their first game in the SEC tournament.
Ole Miss needed a victory to qualify for the postseason. The Rebels will be staying home for the first time since 1996.
During the regular season, the teams played two close games, both won by the Bulldogs. Mississippi State came out on top 58-57 at Oxford, then pulled off a 68-64 overtime victory on its home court.
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