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Hurricane ends MSU's NIT run

By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
March 22, 2001
STARKVILLE For Derrick Zimmerman and the Mississippi State Bulldogs, dreams of a trip to the Big Apple and a possible National Invitation Tournament championship fell short by a nanosecond.
With the Bulldogs down by two, Zimmerman drove the length of the floor and launched a 3-pointer that hit bottom, but it was ruled no good as it left his hand and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane left the Humphrey Coliseum with a punched ticket to Madison Square Garden, 77-75.
In a game the Dogs never led after the opening moments, it took all of their effort to catch up with Tulsa (24-11). But MSU could never get the basket it needed to take the lead.
Tulsa however, had plenty of those down the stretch, including a short jump hook down low by guard Greg Harrington that gave the Golden Hurricanes their final lead with 2.6 seconds left.
Stansbury bolted to the referees after Zimmerman's shot was waved off and requested they check a courtside replay. The call held up, even though one ref initially signaled the shot good, and the Golden Hurricane (24-11) celebrated.
Zimmerman, who scored 14 for MSU, laid on the court in tears when it was decided that the Bulldogs, a day removed from a tough road win at Pittsburgh, wouldn't be going to New York, but instead going home.
Harrington, the hero for Tulsa, who will be making their second appearance in the NIT Final Four, said he knew Zimmerman's shot was no good.
When I heard the crowd, I knew it went in,'' Harrington, who wasn't looking in that direction, said. "But I knew it was after the horn."
Of the game-winner that came from a swift pass behind a wave of MSU defenders, Harrison said he wasn't sure of how much time was left.
There was no time think about it,'' said Harrington, who scored 14 points. It's sweet to make that shot to go to New York.''
If Harris was absolutely certain, a despondent Zimmerman was not.
I couldn't hear nothing,'' he said referring to the moment his discounted shot went through. Instead all Zimmerman could reflect on was what could have been. A couple of plays here and there down the stretch and it could have been a different ballgame,'' he said.
State, who only averaged 32 percent from beyond the arc all season, seemed married to the 3-pointer all night long. And if that was the case, they should have gotten a divorce, as MSU (18-13) nearly shot themselves out of the ballgame with a horrid 21 percent night (5-23). Only a 42-29 rebounding edge could make up for the 40 percent shooting from the field.
State also pulled down 19 offensive boards. Tang Hamilton grabbed 19 of those to go with his nine points.
Time after time MSU settled for the three, only to come up short. Ironically, it was a trey from Zimmerman at the 5:33 mark that knotted the game at 64.
Fifth-year senior Quentin Smith had a workman-like effort of 12 points and seven rebounds. It was his dunk that tied the game again at 70 with 2:19 left. Tulsa's Kevin Johnson, who had 16 points and six boards, missed two free throws the next time down, but he made up for it by draining a lights-out three at the 1:10 mark.
But MSU fought back and tied it again at 75 with 21 seconds to go on a layup by former Sumter County standout Mario Austin, in the middle of a bizarre sequence that ended up with Zimmerman tipping the ball to him. Austin finished with 12.
Another small NIT Hump crowd of 4,529 watched the Golden Hurricane hold State without a field goal for nearly nine minutes in the first half. TU ballooned the lead to 18 with 4:46 left before halftime on a bucket by Charlie Davis.
But the Bulldogs closed the half with a 14-3 explosion, highlighted by an emphatic, around-the-backboard slam in heavy traffic, to trim the Golden Hurricane's lead to 38-31 going intro the locker room.
Marckell Patterson led the Bulldogs with 20 points. Antonio Reed was the high man for Tulsa with 17 points. The Golden Hurricane were 10-for-20 from 3-point range and shot 53 percent overall.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rdark@themeridianstar.com