Friday, March 9, 2012
Rapid Reax: Georgia 71, Mississippi St. 61
By David Helman
NEW ORLEANS -- After a nightmare finish to the 2012 regular season, Mississippi State entered the SEC tournament needing some wins to bolster its tournament resume.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs didn't get the memo, instead dropping a 71-61 upset loss to the tournament's No. 11 seed, Georgia.
The Bulldogs (the ones from Georgia) established early on that they wouldn't be rolling over or playing dead for Mississippi State's bubble prospects. Gerald Robinson set the pace, as usual, putting up 12 points to help Georgia to a 31-29 halftime lead. That scrappiness continued into the second half, where the teams traded the lead in the opening minutes.
Where Georgia got production from Robinson, as well as freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and senior Dustin Ware, Mississippi State couldn't find consistency from anyone. It took the Bulldogs (the ones from Starkville) until the 7:59 mark of the second half to have a scorer reach double digits. Mississippi State's bedrock trio of Dee Bost, Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney accounted for just 21 total points.
Turning point: With 16:25 to play, Brian Bryant tied the game at 34. Georgia then ripped off a 9-0 run highlighted by two consecutive jumpers from Ware, who finished with 13 points. Robinson and Donte Williams each tacked on a basket to make it 43-34. Jalen Steele's 19 points helped Mississippi State get it as close as three, but the Bulldogs couldn't bring it all the way back.
Key player: Robinson led the Bulldogs as he always does, notching 23 points. But Ware was the key to the second half surge that pushed Georgia in front. Ware finished with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, but he had no points at halftime. He accounted for 11 points of Georgia's 15-2 run that seemed to kill Mississippi State's morale.
Key stat: Sidney contributed as many fouls as he did points (4). The Bulldogs' big guy only managed 19 minutes, and didn't come close to his season scoring average. Moultrie got into foul trouble as well and finished with four of his own. He managed to play 39 minutes, but only scored 7 points after averaging 16 this season.
Miscellaneous: It's fitting that State's final setback happened at the hands of Georgia. The Bulldogs have had a rough month, going 2-6 since a Feb. 11 overtime loss to? Who else but Georgia.
What's next: Georgia moves on to face No. 3 seed Vanderbilt, who beat the Bulldogs by 11 and nine in two meetings this year. Mississippi State, which spent a good chunk of the season in the top 25 and at one point seemed to be playing for tournament seeding, will now go home and hope for an NCAA bid.