Jamont Gordon scored 26 points, including a tying 3-pointer after Kentucky squandered a chance to win in regulation with a lane violation, and Mississippi State took advantage for an 84-82 overtime victory Friday in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Kentucky (21-11) overcame a 14-point deficit in the second half and led 75-73 when freshman Jodie Meeks stepped to the line for two free throws with 5.1 seconds left. He calmly swished the first and was setting up for the second when teammate Sheray Thomas backed out of the lane a split-second after the official flipped the ball to the shooter.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury stormed onto the court to protest, but the officials has already picked up the unusual violation. They cut off Stansbury near midcourt, wiped out Meeks' second free throw and awarded possession to the Bulldogs (18-12).
Gordon took the inbounds pass and raced up court, slipping away from the defender with a cross-over dribble and launching a shot from at least 2 feet behind the arc. The ball hit nothing but net as the buzzer went off, sending the game to overtime tied at 76.
The Mississippi State star fell on his back as the shot went through, then got up thumping his chest toward the Kentucky bench.
The Bulldogs, who were the top-seeded team from the SEC West but
might need to win the tournament to get an NCAA invitation, got another huge break in the final minute of overtime when Meeks missed an open lay-up after getting loose under the basket.
Mississippi State took off the other way, passing ahead to Barry Stewart on the fast break. He went up strong, rolled in the shot for an 83-82 lead despite being fouled by Randolph Morris with 24.7 seconds to go.
Stewart missed the free throw, giving Kentucky another chance to escape with a win. But Joe Crawford's driving shot was blocked by
Richard Delk, Stewart claimed the rebound and was fouled with 3.7
Stewart made one free throw, and the Wildcats quickly called time after getting the ball to midcourt. Again, the Mississippi State defense came up big. Stewart knocked away the inbounds pass for Crawford, Gordon grabbed the ball in the corner and held on until the horn went off.
Only then did Gordon hurl the ball toward the roof of the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs advanced to Saturday's semifinals to face either Vanderbilt or Arkansas.
Morris led Kentucky with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Crawford had
20 points, while Meeks added 14.
Despite the loss, the Wildcats are expected to receive an NCAA
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)