Mississippi State tops Ole Miss 76-72
By David Brandt
AP Sports Writer
STARKVILLE — Roquez Johnson doesn’t shoot particularly well, has no real post moves and is undersized for a power forward.
But the 6-foot-7 junior does provide relentless energy. And many nights, that’s enough to make him valuable.
Johnson tied a career high with 20 points using his usual variety of putbacks and unorthodox moves around the basket, Craig Sword added 15 and Mississippi State beat rival Mississippi 76-72 on Saturday afternoon in front of a rowdy crowd at Humphrey Coliseum.
“He’s a hard matchup because guys are used to guarding traditional power forwards,” Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. “He’s not a traditional power forward because he has an ability to get by with quickness and athletic ability.”
Johnson’s constant energy rubbed off on his Mississippi State teammates, who attacked the basket on nearly every possession. The Bulldogs had a huge 42-12 advantage in free-throw attempts, making 28 of them, which proved crucial in the victory.
Sword had a strange stat line, finishing 0 of 7 from the field but 15 of 18 on free throws. He also had a career-high seven steals as the Bulldogs forced Ole Miss into 16 turnovers.
Sword came into the week shooting 56 percent on free throws, but made 24 of 28 against Kentucky and Ole Miss.
Mississippi State (11-4, 1-1 SEC) led 43-36 at halftime, but Ole Miss rallied to push ahead 58-54 by midway through the second half.
Jarvis Summers led Ole Miss (10-5, 1-1) with 23 points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 72 with 1:19 remaining. But Mississippi State scored the final four points at the free-throw line to seal the win.
“It’s not just the fact that we beat Ole Miss, it’s the fact that we dealt with some adversity and still found a way to win the basketball game,” Ray said. “The reason we found a way to win is we continued to attack.”
Ole Miss is used to heartbreak in Starkville. Mississippi State has won 15 of the last 16 in the series at Humphrey Coliseum. The Rebels were playing without suspended leading scorer Marshall Henderson for a second straight game.
“Our guys scrap and fight and it’s not always the most pleasing to watch from any vantage point, but we stay in games,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “Then it comes down to the stretch and you’ve got to make plays. The games we’ve made plays — like (Auburn on Thursday) — we win. The games we don’t make the plays and Mississippi State does, they win.”
The Bulldogs fell into an early 10-5 hole, but quickly rallied for a 43-36 halftime lead.
Colin Borchert and Johnson both scored 11 points in the first half. It was another good game for Borchert against the Rebels — the 6-foot-8 forward scored 21 in a win against Ole Miss last season. Borchert finished with 14.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss both shot 13 of 32 (40.6 percent) from the field in the first half, but the Bulldogs built their lead thanks to a 21-5 advantage in free-throw attempts and the Rebels’ 11 turnovers.
Derrick Millinghaus made three early 3s and Summers added two from long range to keep Ole Miss close in the first half. Then the Rebels went on a 12-0 run over a 4-minute span midway through the second half that turned a 54-46 deficit into a 58-54 lead.
The Ole Miss bench was crucial during that span. Anthony Perez made five straight points and also blocked a shot while Dwight Coleby grabbed an offensive rebound and slammed it home.
LaDarius White finished with 16 points and Millinghaus added 15 for the Rebels. But it wasn’t enough.