Mississippi St. waits out storm, then wins in OT to reach SEC semifinals

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Rick Stansbury knew Alabama wouldn't maintain its hot 3-point shooting in the first half.

Jamont Gordon scored 23 points and Mississippi State survived a scary weather delay of more than an hour during overtime to beat Alabama 69-67 in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals Friday night.

Mykal Riley, who led Alabama with 18 points, forced the overtime with a dramatic 3-pointer that spun around the rim and hit the backboard before falling through the net for a 59-59 tie.

Then, a severe storm moving through downtown Atlanta ripped holes in the Georgia Dome and sent fans fleeing for the exits, causing a delay of 1 hour, 5 minutes with 2:11 left in overtime.

"We planned for a lot of things. We didn't plan for a tornado," Stansbury said.

Riley just missed another long jumper at the end of the overtime.

"I watched the ball and I thought 'That ball is in the basket! We're playing tomorrow!" said Alabama coach Mark Gottfried, who said he'd have Riley try the same shot again.

"I would do it again," Gottfried said. "I have that much confidence in Mykal."

Mississippi State will play in Saturday's semifinals against the winner of the Georgia-Kentucky game, which was scheduled for late Friday night but postponed. The time of the rescheduled game was not immediately announced.

SEC officials were considering the logistics of having the Georgia-Kentucky winner play two games on Saturday.

Alabama led 36-29 at halftime after making 8 of 15 3-point attempts.

"They had a lot of guys make shots in the first half," Stansbury said. "I didn't think they could keep doing that."

At least two tears in a corner of the fabric roof were visible when play was halted at about 9:40 p.m. Wind blew small bits of insulation through the rips toward the court.

Players soon left the court. An announcement about 15 minutes later informed fans that an inspection showed the Dome to be structurally sound.

The Bulldogs led 64-61, thanks to a 3-pointer by Ben Hansbrough, when play was halted.

Charles Rhodes had 15 points and Barry Stewart added 11 for Mississippi State.

Hendrix and Alonzo Gee each had 15 for Alabama.

Mississippi State allowed only seven points in the final 10 minutes of regulation before Riley's 3-pointer forced the overtime.

Mississippi State, which trailed by 9 early in the second half, took its first lead of the half on Hansbrough's 3-pointer with 2:36 left. A jam by Gordon gave the Bulldogs a 58-56 lead with 1:15 left.

With 7 seconds left, Jarvis Varnado blocked an attempted layup by Hendrix, who fouled Stewart. Stewart made one free throw to push the lead to three points.

Mississippi State scored the first 10 points but was outscored 36-19 the rest of the first half.

Alabama's first field goal was a 3-pointer by Brandon Hollinger, and it set the pace for the rest of the half. Eight of the Crimson Tide's 12 field goals in the half were 3s.

Alabama almost abandoned its 3-point shot in the second half but still stretched its 36-29 halftime lead to nine points. Hendrix had two jams and a tip-in in the first eight minutes as Alabama moved its offensive focus inside.

Gordon's three-point play with 13:06 left helped Mississippi State begin its comeback. Hansbrough hit two free throws with 3:24 left to cut Alabama's lead to 52-51, and Hansbrough followed with a 3 from the corner with 2:36 left to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the second half at 54-52.


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