Top 5 Heartbreakers of the Stansbury Era; #5: 2008, MSU vs. Memphis

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We begin our countdown of the Top 5 heartbreakers of the Rick Stanbury era in the 2008 NCAA Tournament: #1 seed Memphis 77, #8 seed MSU 74.

The 2008 version of the Mississippi State basketball team came into the big dance after winning the SEC West with a 12-4 record. They got an ‘8’ seed because of a 22-10 overall record. The Bulldogs were led by Jamont Gordon (17.2 PPG) and Charles Rhodes (17.4 PPG); a dangerous matchup for the extremely talented Memphis Tigers led by Chris Douglas-Roberts (18.1 PPG) and Derrick Rose (14.9 PPG).

Memphis was a dominate team with a 34-1 record coming in. Mississippi State won their first round game vs. Oregon relatively easily, 76-69. The Tigers were expected to breeze through this one, especially since it was in Little Rock, AR, only 2 1/2 hours from their campus.

The game was physical from the outset, with Charles Rhodes and Memphis forward Joey Dorsey battling for every rebound and point in the paint. Ben Hansbrough came up with a 19 point effort but Memphis played their usual great game to counter all of State’s punches. Derrick Rose led the Tigers to nearly a 4/1 assist to turnover ratio (19/5).

After trailing 36-27 at halftime the Dawgs didn’t go away, but scrapped to stay within striking distance throughout the 2nd half. With :25 left MSU trailed 75-68 before a furious comeback. A quick lay-in for State, missed free throw for Memphis, and a Rhodes dunk made it 75-72 with :10 left.

Rose was fouled and could only make one of two free throws. Gordon made a layup and State was down by two. Douglas-Roberts also only made one of two and there was 3.2 seconds left. MSU down by three.

With no timeouts left there wasn’t any doubt who would get the ball. Jamont Gordon had already scored 21 points in the game and was 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. He quickly drove the ball but dribbled it off his leg just past half-court, still he regained control and had a shot three feet behind the line…. too long.

After this game Memphis would roll through the NCAA Tournament beating the likes of Michigan State, Texas and UCLA by an average of 17 points. They barely missed a national championship but for Mario Chalmers desperation three to send the final game into overtime where the Tigers lost. Clearly Mississippi State was mis-seeded; a team that was 12-4 in a major conference forced to play a Sweet-16 type game during the first weekend.

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