MSU bullies way past Ole Miss
Jan. 28, 2001
By Richard Dark
The Meridian Star
STARKVILLE In the continuation of their bitter rivalry with the Ole Miss Rebels, the Mississippi State Bulldogs found something by their own admission had been in short supply in the previous four Southeastern Conference games.
The Bulldogs (11-6, 2-4 in SEC) flashed plenty of that early and often in building a big lead and holding off a late Rebel charge, 79-69, in front of 9,151 raucous fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
Fifty-seven fouls, including a pair of intentional fouls and a double technical, can attest to that.
The Bulldogs came out of the gate hot, quickly building an eight-point lead inside the first six minutes before Ole Miss (15-4, 3-3) cut it to one on a pair of free throws by center Rahim Lockhart with 7:06 to go in the first half. But the Rebs had trouble getting shots to fall the rest of the half as MSU built the lead back up to nine on short jumper by former Sumter County High standout Mario Austin.
Austin scored only six points and had one rebound in 20 minutes of relief of Robert Jackson, but it was his defensive presence down low that hampered Lockhart, who finished with 10 points.
Whether it was his energy, the rabid throng or senior forward Tang Hamilton who paced the Bulldogs with 16 points is uncertain, but after both teams went scoreless for the first three minutes of the second half, MSU increased its lead from six to 12 at the 15:23 mark of the game when backup point guard Guy Gardner (10 points) sank a pair of free throws.
After Jason Harrison (17 points) sank a pair of free throws to trim the MSU lead to four with a 2:16 left, Gardner responded by electrifying the crowd with a drive from the left wing to the basket for a layup. The back-and-forth battle between the two continued when Harrison pulled up and drained a 3-pointer seconds later to make it 67-64 at the 1:43 mark.
But that's as close as the Rebels got, as the free-throw parade ensued and the Rebels were unable to make enough shots.
Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes said the week off could have attributed to what he called his team's lack of focus.
Ole Miss outrebounded the league's best rebounding team 41-34 (Lockhart had 11), but killed its chances with a dismal 29.7 percent shooting performance.
The Bulldogs hit on 50 percent of their attempts, and got 11 points each from the Jackson boys, Antonio and Robert.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.