Prudential Center- It wasn’t the prettiest brand of basketball for Mississippi State in the first twenty minutes of the game. With its top scorer being held at bay, MSU turned to their bench to beat Kansas State 67-61 on Saturday in the first game of the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Rock in Newark, New Jersey.
Tyson Carter scored 14 points, but struggled with his shot, making only 3 of 13 from the floor. However, the senior guard was 7 of 10 from the line for the Bulldogs (7-2). Carter just imposed his will don’t low late in the game.
Abdul Ado who entered the game averaging just 3.8 points for the Bulldogs, scored a season-high 13 points and collected nine boards.
“We didn’t finish,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We were not very good from two. And when you shoot whatever it is, 32% from two, or worse, it’s hard to win games.”
It goes down as another tough defeat for K-State (6-4), which led by 12 points in the first half and seven points in the second half before losing control late.
Kansas State, which shot 6 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half, failed to connect from long distance on its seven shots in the second half. It finished 32.6% from beyond the arc for the contest.
Things began to slip away from K-State when Mississippi State guard Iverson Molinar threw down a nasty dunk against Wildcats forward Levi Stockard that pulled the Bulldogs within 55-53 at the 6:08 mark of the second half.
“Definitely seemed like Kansas State had the momentum for a majority of the game,” MSU coach Ben Howland said. “Just finally when we got that dunk, D.J. got a couple of baskets and steal, started getting stops and everybody starting getting excited. We started to get the momentum after that dunk, it had a big part to do with why we won.”
Another big moment occurred when Cartier Diarra lost a turnover with his team trying to add to a 58-57 lead with 3:36 remaining. MSU guard D.J. Stewart stole the ball and converted a fastbreak layup.
Cartier Diarra scored 20 points and Mike McGuirl added 14 for Kansas State (6-4).
McGuirl’s tip-in with 59.4 to go drew Kansas State to within 64-61, but Carter sealed it with two free throws with 10 seconds left on the clock.
The Wildcats began the game sluggish and cold on offense as Makol Mawien lost two turnovers in the opening minute and the Bulldogs raced to a 7-2 lead. But then they settled down and looked like this game would fall their way.
Behind a flawless first-half from Mike McGuirl (11 points on three three-pointers and two free throws) and Cartier Diarra, K-State surged ahead 27-15 and MSU coach Ben Howland needed to call a timeout to make some adjustments.
It seemed like the Wildcats were on their way to a much-needed victory against a name opponent. But K-State offense grew stagnant and only scored five points the remainder of the half, while MSU took advantage of some lineup changes from the Wildcats, such as McGuirl heading to the bench with two fouls. The Bulldogs controlled things over the next few minutes and the score was tied 32-32 at halftime.
“Every game comes down to it being a tie score and which way is it going to go?” Weber said. “We cut Marquette down to one, Pittsburgh we had the lead. Each one, we didn’t finish it.”
Diarra leads the Wildcats in assists, averaging seven a game, but didn’t record one in 35 minutes and he turned the ball over three times.
Kansas State was playing its first game in New Jersey since 2006. Mississippi State played in the Never Forget Tribute Classic last year.
K-State will be back when in action on Dec. 21 against Saint Louis at Sprint Center.