NEW YORK -- Mississippi State's great start wasn't fooling
one person -- Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury.
The Bulldogs hit 10 of their 13 shots from the field in taking a
22-point lead and they hung on for a 69-60 victory over
Texas A&M (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) on Thursday night in the semifinals of the 2K Sports
Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.
"That was a little bit of fool's gold, making five 3s like
that," Stansbury said. "Texas A&M is a good basketball team and I
knew we weren't going to maintain that kind of shooting. But I did
like our defense, we were pushing them out and we controlled the
flow at both ends."
The Bulldogs (3-1) will play Arizona (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) in Friday night's championship game at
Madison Square Garden.
Dee Bost had 20 points for Mississippi State and although the
senior guard didn't score in the big run in the first half, he hit
a big 3-pointer with 3:16 to play.
"Dee Bost was hard for us to contain," Texas A&M coach Billy
Kennedy said. "He's not just a good player, he's a good four-year
Naji Hibbert's drive with 3:37 to play brought Texas A&M (2-1)
within 60-52. Bost hit the 3-pointer 19 seconds later that started
the Bulldogs' 9-4 run that got them back in control of the game.
Brian Bryant had 12 points for the Bulldogs and freshman Rodney
Hood added 10, his third double-figure effort in as many games.
Mississippi State used a 15-0 run to take a 31-9 lead with 10:11
left in the first half. The Bulldogs couldn't keep up the torrid
shooting and the Aggies were able to close within single digits
twice in the first half, the last time on a drive by Turner with 29
seconds left that made it 41-32.
Mississippi State finished the half 12 for 24, including 5 of 8
from 3-point range, and the Aggies, after starting 3 of 14 from the
field, shot 42.9 percent for the half (12 of 28).
"It was tough because we knew what they wanted to do in
shooting 3s," Texas A&M guard Dash Harris said. "We gave up too
many open looks at the beginning, dug ourselves a hole and we
couldn't come back."
The Bulldogs opened the second half on a 7-0 run to go up 48-32.
Texas A&M was able to get within eight points but Bost started
the deciding run with his second 3-pointer of the game and the
Aggies' only one of the second half.
Texas A&M was without junior forward Khris Middleton. The
preseason All-Big 12 selection had surgery on his right knee Nov.
11 and is expected to miss three to four weeks.
"Khris is an all-conference player and we need him, but
defensively that's no excuse for how we played," Harris said.
"Defense is team-oriented. We miss Khris and we can't wait to get
him back. When he comes back you'll see a different team. This
isn't how we play."
This was the second game on the Aggies bench for Kennedy, who
was diagnosed with early stage Parkinson's disease. Kennedy, hired
in May, is 0-6 against Mississippi State at four schools -- Texas
A&M, Southeastern Louisiana, Murray State and Centenary.
Next season this will be a Southeastern Conference game as Texas
A&M moves from the Big 12 to the SEC.
"That was a good welcome for them," Bost said of the future
conference opponent. "Give them credit, they're a good team. They