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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah had 4.3 seconds left to do something.
After building up 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 just needed to go the length of the court, hoist up a 3-point shot and send the game into extra time.
The ball was inbounded to Branden Carlson near midcourt, who immediately tossed it back to a sprinting Rollie Worster up the court. As Worster crossed the halfcourt line, he heaved up a shot, but the shot was significantly short. Ball game.
An undefeated Mississippi State team that shot 25% from the field came out on top with a 52-49 win to claim the Fort Myers Tip-Off championship on Wednesday night.
The 3-point heave shouldn't have come as a surprise considering Utah (4-2) finished the game 4-of-19 from deep and could build on a lead midway through the second half. Utah shot only 33% from the field and struggled against a tough Mississippi State (6-0) defense that forced 14 Utah turnovers, which included 11 in the first half.
Utah's leading scorer on the season, Branden Carlson, couldn't get it going all night and finished the night with 0 points and eight rebounds in the loss.
Fortunately for Utah, though, freshman Keba Keita came through and helped bring a physicality to the game that Utah lacked and helped bring down some key rebounds on a night when the Utes managed to outrebound the Bulldogs 49-45.
Keita didn't necessarily fill out the state sheet, but was a difference maker in Utah's push to overcome an 8-point first-half deficit and to help build up a 5-point lead with just over 11 minutes left to play. Keita finished with 4 points, seven rebounds and one block in 17 minutes of play.
The Runnin' Utes scored the first bucket of the game and then led Mississippi State go on a quick 8-0 run to take a quick lead. But as quickly as the Bulldogs built up a lead, the scoring stopped instantly. It was a consistent theme of Mississippi State going on a run, only to go into a long scoring drought.
Rinse and repeat.
Utah shot slightly better from the field and slowly dug itself out of a deficit, but turnovers continued to be the thorn in Utah's side and stopped any momentum the team might have had. Utah cut down on the turnovers in the second half but then went cold from 3-point range and couldn't build on a lead.
It all led to a Utah team that had its chances but couldn't capitalize against a team ranked No. 28 in 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 was join in double figures by Tolu Smith, who had 16 points and rebounds, and D.J. Jeffries, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Utes were led in scoring by Marco Anthony and Ben Carlson, who both finished with 10 points apiece. Anthony added eight rebounds and Carlson had four rebounds. Worster added nine rebounds and three assists in the loss.