Utah Utes head coach Craig Smith screams during a men’s basketball game against the Idaho State Bengals at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, November 14, 2022. Utah won 70-58. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah had 4.3 seconds left to act.
After building a 5-point lead in a low-scoring affair, Mississippi State got hot late in the game and controlled a 3-point lead. The Runnin’ Utes only had to go the length of the court, pull up a 3-point shot and send the game into overtime.
The ball was brought in near midfield by Branden Carlson, who immediately threw it back to a sprinting Rollie Worster, who was sprinting up the court. Worster picked up a shot as he crossed the halfcourt line, but the shot was clearly short. ball game.
An undefeated Mississippi State team, shooting 25% from the field, prevailed with a 52-49 win to capture the Fort Myers Tip-Off Championship Wednesday night.
The 3-point leverage shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering Utah (4-2) finished the game 4-for-19 from deep and was able to build to a lead midway through the second half. Utah shot just 33% from the field and struggled against a strong Mississippi State defense (6-0) that forced Utah 14 turnovers, including 11 in the first half.
Utah’s top scorer of the season, Branden Carlson, didn’t get a run all night and finished the night with 0 points and eight rebounds in the loss.
Luckily for Utah, however, freshman Keba Keita came through and helped bring a physicality to the game Utah lacked and helped tuck in some key rebounds on a night as the Utes managed to beat the Bulldogs 49- 45 to overtake.
Keita didn’t necessarily fill out the state sheet, but was a key factor in Utah’s effort to overcome an 8-point deficit in the first half and help build a 5-point lead with just over 11 minutes left. Keita finished the game with 4 points, seven rebounds and a block in 17 minutes of play.
The Runnin’ Utes scored the first bucket of the game and then led Mississippi State with a fast 8-0 run to quickly take the lead. But as quickly as the Bulldogs built a lead, scoring stopped immediately. It was a constant theme of the Mississippi state going on a run only to be caught in a long drought.
Rinse and repeat.
Utah shot slightly better out of the field and was slowly digging out of a deficit, but turnovers continued to be a thorn in Utah’s side, halting any momentum the team might have had. Utah reduced turnovers in the second half but then went cold from within 3-point range and failed to build a lead.
All of this resulted in a Utah team that had their chances but failed to capitalize against a team ranked No. 28 in the KenPom ratings.
Dashawn Davis led Mississippi State with 18 points — 15 of which came in the second half — three rebounds and two assists in the win. He finished in doubles from Tolu Smith, who had 16 points and rebounds, and DJ Jeffries, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Utes were led in the standings by Marco Anthony and Ben Carlson, both finishing with 10 points each. Anthony added eight rebounds and Carlson had four rebounds. Worster added nine rebounds and three assists in the loss.