STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) – Elston Turner’s first half consisted of zero points, four turnovers and a whole lot of frustration.
But Texas A&M’s leading scorer was able to turn it around after the break, helping the Aggies end a frustrating four-game losing streak.
Fabyon Harris scored 17 points, Turner added all 11 of his points after halftime and Texas A&M rallied past Mississippi State for a 55-49 overtime win on Wednesday night.
“I was frustrated,” Turner said. “I had missed a few shots. But I couldn’t let my team down, so I challenged myself to pick it up.”
Turner hit a fadeaway jumper with 30 seconds left that gave Texas A&M (13-7, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) an insurmountable 53-49 lead. The 6-foot-5, 209-pound senior turned to the bench and pumped his fist after the crucial bucket, and the Aggies got their first road win since a stunning 83-71 victory over Kentucky on Jan. 12.
Turner had his marquee moment in that game, scoring 40 points at famed Rupp Arena. This performance wasn’t as pretty, but it might have been nearly as important. Texas A&M rallied from a 31-17 deficit early in the second half and moved back into the middle of the SEC pack as the halfway mark in conference play approaches.
“It was an ugly game,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “But I was proud of the way our guys fought back. I thought our small lineup really sped up the game in the second half.”
Harris made 8 of 13 shots from the field. J’Mychal Reese scored 10 points, including four in overtime.
Mississippi State’s Craig Sword banked in a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left to tie the game at 47 and send it into overtime. Gavin Ware led the Bulldogs (7-12, 2-5) with 14 points while Colin Borchert added 10. The Bulldogs have lost five straight.
“There were two things in the game that absolutely killed us,” Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. “One is the turnovers. Not just the turnovers, but the turnovers out (in the backcourt) where the other team just goes and lays it in. I told our guys that there’s no defense for that. And second was that our big guys just didn’t finish at the rim.”
Texas A&M started the SEC schedule with impressive back-to-back wins over Arkansas and Kentucky, but since then the offense has disappeared. It wasn’t much better against the Bulldogs, but some big shots by Reese and Turner in overtime were enough to give the Aggies the win.
Ray has preached a deliberate approach during his first season — especially because the roster has just seven healthy scholarship players — so the Bulldogs’ 29-17 halftime advantage was nearly perfection.
Mississippi State was very efficient on offense, making 10 of 15 (66.7 percent) shots from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and the defense forced 13 Texas A&M turnovers.
But the Bulldogs had trouble taking care of the ball in the second half with 14 turnovers. Texas A&M turned many of those into easy buckets and owned a 14-0 advantage in fast-break points.
The Bulldogs pushed their lead to 31-17 early in the second half but Texas A&M then started a methodical comeback, which resulted in a 16-2 run that tied the game at 33 with 13:30 remaining.
The teams traded blows until Texas A&M was finally able to create some separation when Turner hit back-to-back baskets to push the Aggies ahead 45-42 with 3:54 remaining.
But Mississippi State had one more run remaining and Sword’s stunning 3-pointer off the glass tied it at 47. Borchert’s jumper pushed the Bulldogs ahead 49-47 at the start of overtime, but they didn’t score another point during the final four minutes.
“I guess mentally we ran out of gas,” Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele said. “Little things we messed up on cost us.”
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