No. 17 Mississippi St. 69, Nebraska 66
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Mississippi State coach Richard Williams likes what he saw of his 17th-ranked team over the weekend.
The Bulldogs (8-1) proved they could make the big plays and remain cool down the stretch in a 69-66 victory over Nebraska on Saturday night in the championship game of the Ford Far West Classic.
``I’m real proud of our team because of the way we played down the stretch,″ Williams said. ``We lost a big lead (16 points early in the second half), but then we came from behind and defended well when the game was on the line. We got a lot better tonight.″
On the other hand, Nebraska (9-3) was in the position to win several times during the last minute but failed to execute.
″We showed character and toughness to come from behind, but you don’t deserve to win when you turn the ball over four of your last five possessions like we did,″ Nebraska coach Danny Nee said. ``We just didn’t make good decisions.″
Mississippi State seniors Darryl Wilson and Erick Dampier led the Bulldogs with 27 and 13 points, respectively, and they also made big plays late in the game.
With Nebraska ahead 63-60, Marcus Bullard hit a 3-pointer to tie it with three minutes to go. Wilson put the Bulldogs ahead 22 seconds later with a basket off a steal by Bullard.
After two free throws by Tom Wald tied the score at 65-65, the 6-foot-11 Dampier, who was named the tournament’s MVP, scored on a follow shot with one minute remaining as Mississippi State took the lead for good.
Nebraska’s Tyron Lue made one of two free throws to cut the lead to one with 47 seconds to go, but after turning the ball over three straight times with the chance to take the lead, the Huskers were forced to foul Wilson with 8.4 seconds remaining. He made both foul shots, and Nebraska lost the ball again trying to get up a last-second shot.
Williams felt his team’s zone defense, which helped produce a 39-27 halftime lead, was the key to his team’s success.
``Nebraska struggled with the zone,″ he said. ``The zone was good to us in this tournament.″
Nee was disappointed by the way his team reacted to the zone.
``You’d think it was some kind of Iron Curtain,″ Nee said. ``We acted like it was a tricky puzzle, and when we couldn’t solve it, we just shot from the outside. We shot 22 3-point shots (making five), and that’s not us.″
Dampier’s 13 rebounds helped the Bulldogs to a 44-33 advantage off the boards. Dontae Jones and Bullard had 11 points each.
Jaron Boone led the Huskers with 13 points and six rebounds.