The ’02 Bulldogs had some big wins during the year but none were bigger than this. Mario Austin led State on a tear to end the SEC regular season winning five straight games to finish 10-6. Unfortunately, it was a little too late as Alabama won the West and the SEC with a 12-4 record.
Alabama was led by SEC Player of the Year Erwin Dudley, Rod Gizzard and Mo Williams. They split the season series with MSU, as both teams won their home game by double digits. The Tide cruised to the Championship game, and the Dawgs had wins of 10 and 6 over Florida and LSU.
The game was tight throughout. The dominant big men for both teams came to play, Mario Austin had 15 points and Dudley had 18.
Down 52-51 with just under four minutes to play Timmy Bowers and then Derek Zimmerman hit 3′s and State never relinquished the lead. Alabama got to within one point at 59-58 and had the ball, but Mo Williams missed a trey and Michael Gholar secured the rebound. He was fouled and made both free throws. With five seconds left, Williams brought the ball up the court but Bowers knocked it out of his hands and MSU because SEC Tournament Champions!
The win was number 26 on the year for State, which tied the all-time school record set by the ’96 team. The record win #27 came against McNeese State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This was the second ever SEC Tournament Championship for MSU.