Mississippi State Basketball Suffers Overtime Loss in Regular Season Finale

Mississippi State basketball fell in overtime to lose it's fourth-straight game in Saturday's regular season finale against South Carolina.
Mar 9, 2024; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs forward Tolu Smith (1) drives
Mar 9, 2024; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs forward Tolu Smith (1) drives / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State basketball closed out the regular season on Saturday against South Carolina, with the Gamecocks prevailing in overtime, 93-89. The Bulldogs once again found themselves trailing early, and though they kept things within striking difference and managed a few minimal leads, they never managed to fully take momentum away from South Carolina.

With the game tied at 75 in the final moments, a Tolu Smith foul sent Gamecock forward BJ Mack to the free throw line. Mack hit both, putting South Carolina ahead 77-75 with four seconds left. Bulldog guard Dashawn Davis got the ball on the ensuing inbound, and right when it looked like he wouldn't get a shot off, he was fouled.

With one second to go, Davis calmly sank both free throws, sending the game to overtime. Carolina quickly hit a three in OT to go up 80-77, and though the period was a back-and-forth affair, State never managed to tie or take the lead. Josh Hubbard had a chance to tie the game at 89 with 11 seconds remaining after being fouled on a three point attempt, but he made just 2-3.

A pair of free throws put South Carolina ahead by three with 10 seconds left, and they chose to smart play to intentionally foul State, preventing a three point attempt and forcing State to try and execute an intentional miss and putback from the free throw line. State couldn't get it done, and the Bulldogs lost their fourth-straight game, closing out the regular season at 19-12 and 8-10 in the SEC.

Mississippi State basketball with another slow offensive start

For the third-straight game, Mississippi State basketball failed to find a rhythm early on the offensive end. They opened the game just 3-11 shooting. The Gamecock defense seemed to suffocate State, immediately swarming the ball-carrier to prevent open looks both to shoot or pass the ball, especially down low to Tolu Smith. This has been another theme of these last few games. For whatever reason, MSU has struggled to create good looks on offense.

To State's credit, they got out of their funk offensively quicker than they did against Auburn and Texas A&M. They shot 50% from the floor, 40% from three, and had four players in double-figures, led by Josh Hubbard with 28. This was Hubbard's fifth-straight 20-point game, and he set a Mississippi State single season record with 98.

Despite a good shooting day, turnovers were again a problem. State committed 12 turnovers, leading to 13 South Carolina points. Those mistakes were largely the difference in the game.

Mississippi State basketball's defense has awful day

Though offensive inconsistencies are nothing new for Mississippi State basketball, defense is expected to be the constant under Chris Jans. That unit has not been as strong as it was a year ago when it was truly elite, but State's mostly been good defensively. That was not the case on Saturday.

According to analytics website Bart Torvik, Mississippi State played it's worth defensive game of the year, as noted by 247 Sports reporter Justin Frommer. South Carolina shot 48.5% from the field, 32.1% from three, and committed only eight turnovers. While those numbers don't necessarily jump off the page as being truly horrendous defense, this is a South Carolina offense that has struggled this year.

MSU had no answer for defending Carolina's post players. BJ Mack and Colin Murray-Boyles combined for 44 points on 17-21 shooting. When they got the ball, State couldn't defend them, simply out-muscling the Bulldogs down low. This, again, has become a recurring theme after both Auburn's Johni Broome and Texas A&M's Solomon Washington gave MSU problems.

That is a very real concern entering the postseason.

Mississippi State basketball in serious danger of missing NCAA Tournament

Mississippi State basketball entered the Kentucky game needing just one more win in their final four games to lock up a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

They went 0-4.

Three of those losses were down to the wire and easily could've gone the other way. But that doesn't matter. What matters is they couldn't win them, and their own sluggish and frustrating play is to blame.

And now, State is firmly on the bubble entering the SEC Tournament. If they go 0-1 in Nashville, their chances of being selected become incredibly slim. That's a dangerous place to be, and it's particularly frustrating knowing how close they were to safely making the field just two weeks ago.

If they can win at least one in the SEC Tournament? They're probably going dancing. But it still wouldn't be a certainty. Every year, there are teams that play their way out of the field down the stretch, and Mississippi State basketball might have just become one.