Mississippi State runs out of steam, falls to Memphis in NIT Championship
In the first NIT championship game played outside New York City, and the first time Mississippi State has played in the NIT title game, the Bulldogs took on No. 1 seed Memphis on Sunday, and gave the Tigers plenty of problems late in the first half.
But that momentum wasn’t transferred to the second half, and Memphis prevailed 77-64 in Frisco, Texas. Cameron Matthews powered the Bulldogs with a team-high 19 points, while Deivon Smith added 17. Both freshmen, they showed the potential for seasons to come for the Bulldogs. Memphis had 3 players in double figures led by Boogie Ellis with 23.
Memphis raced out to a 13-0 lead thanks to a slew of turnovers and missed shots by State. But the Bulldogs roared back, and ended the first half on a 19-8 punctuated by a buzzer-beating layup by Andersson Garcia. Garcia played just a minute in the first half, and miraculously had a steal and that bucket to tie the game.
Andersson Garcia Steal and Score!
— Mississippi State MBK (@HailStateMBK) March 28, 2021
That was the second part of a tale of contrasting play in the opening 20 minutes. State responded after the drought of a start to outscore Memphis 19-14. The turnovers were a theme throughout the half, and at one point, State had 9 turnovers compared to Memphis’ one.
Memphis scored 33 in the first half despite shooting just 27 percent from the field. That scoring output was aided by 9 turnovers from Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs were without Tolu Smith, who missed another game because of contact tracing. The Bulldogs reached the final after Iverson Molinar scored 25 points and DJ Stewart had 23, as they combined for nine 3-pointers, as Mississippi State led throughout to beat Louisiana Tech 84-62 on Saturday in a semifinal.