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Column: MSU guard always ready at game's end

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
March 7, 2004
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. You do not become your program's all-time winningest basketball player without a combination of fearlessness, talent and a little bit of luck.
Mississippi State University's Timmy Bowers, who has won 91 games in a Bulldog uniform, proved this Saturday afternoon in Coleman Coliseum against Alabama.
The senior point guard knocked down the game-winning shot on the baseline with one second left to play in overtime to give No. 5 MSU an 82-81 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Prior to the 6-foot-2 guard's game winner, he tied the game with just one tick left on the clock in regulation.
A pair of unique happenstances that hurt the Tide set up Bowers' heroic efforts.
With 13 seconds left in regulation, Alabama guard Ernest Shelton was at the free-throw with the ball in hand ready to take his first shot in a one-and-one situation.
Though he had already bounced the ball twice after receiving it from the game official, the referee requested the ball back from the Tide guard to allow Bowers to take the fourth spot around the key.
Shelton's shot rimmed out of the basket setting up the Bulldogs game-ending charge to send the contest into overtime.
In overtime, MSU got the ball back with 18 seconds left on the clock because Alabama guard Antoine Pettway stepped out of bounds.
Pettway went to retrieve the ball from a teammate, who was trapped on the sideline by a pair of Bulldog defenders.
But Pettway's foot landed on the line to give the Bulldogs back the ball in the final seconds of overtime.
Though a pair of bizarre occurrences set up Bowers' shots, it still came time for the guard to find it in himself to sink the baskets.
Alabama did not make it easy for the guard to hit the two baskets.
On both shots, Tide sophomore forward Kennedy Winston, a three-time SEC Player of the Week, guarded Bowers.
Winston, who stands at 6-foot-7, had an extra five inches of height on Bowers, but the larger opponent could not deter the Bulldogs co-captain.
On the game-tying shot, Bowers jitter-bugged his way to the left side of the free throw line.
After shaking off Winston with a head fake, Bowers leaned forward and sunk the basket to tie the game at 75.
In overtime, Bowers used his wily veteran knowledge to put in the game-winning basket.
The Bulldogs guard streaked down the court to the baseline and went to the air with Winston going up in front of him.
Bowers switched the ball from his left to right hand and banked the shot off the backboard to score the winning basket.
Bowers' headline-making plays to seal the win and outright regular season Southeastern Conference championship for MSU were just two examples of the grit shown by MSU.
After taking a 5-3 lead three minutes into the game, the Bulldogs never led again until 2:34 was left in overtime. MSU reserve point guard Gary Ervin hit a three-pointer from the right wing to take an 80-79 lead.
Alabama held a double-digit lead at the end of the first half, and the Tide built its lead to 64-48 with 9:18 left in the game.
The Bulldogs didn't blink against the seemingly overwhelming odds.
MSU went to a midcourt trap that took Alabama out of its rhythm in the game final nine minutes, and the Bulldogs outscored the Tide 27-14 in the game's closing minutes.
It's a mix that could just get the Bulldogs back to the Final Four for the first time since 1996, especially if Bowers has the ball in his hands with time running out.