2007 was a bounce back year for Mississippi State after a rebuilding effort in ’06. The Dawgs barely missed the big dance, so they had to settle for the top seed in the NIT. They proceeded to ravage Mississippi Valley State, Bradley and Florida State by an average of 21 points on their way to Madison Square Garden for the Final Four. West Virginia dominated in similar fashion in their bracket as well.
MSU was led by Jamont Gordon, Charles Rhodes, and Dietric Slater. 73% of State’s scholarship players were freshman or sophomores…and many of them excelled during the NIT run. While Starkville wasn’t exactly buzzing about the NIT, there was some excitement about the possibility of taking home a trophy for this young team.
The Mountaineers got out to an early 19-12 lead, but State exploded from there. At one point, the Dawgs were on a 22-5 run and had a 14 point lead four minutes into the 2nd half. West Virginia chipped away for the next ten minutes and eventually took the lead with just under a minute to play.
Slater put together a terrific final game as a Bulldog with 18 points. Barry Stewart gave us a taste of what he’d do in future years as he hit a clutch jump shot after WVU took the lead to make it 61-60. After stopping them on the defensive end, Gordon got a rebound and was fouled. However, he was only able to make one free throw and it was 62-60.
With :05 to play the Mountaineers threw up a 3-point shot and missed, however, they secured the rebound and called a timeout. With :02.1 to go, then-coach John Beilein took another chance and went for the win. This time Darris Nichols took the shot and it went in. A dagger in the heart to State fans.
West Virginia went on to win the NIT against Clemson in the championship game. After the season MSU was plagued with transfers once again as the Delk twins and highly overrated PF/C Vernon Goodridge left the program.