The Minutemen of UMass dealt the Mississippi State Bulldogs a 101-96, double overtime defeat Tuesday in the first round of the NIT, and now the Bulldogs face their most uncertain off-season in over fifteen years.
Between tweets from Renardo Sidney, a hint from Arnette Moultrie that he may return for his senior season, and constant speculation about Rick Stansbury's job status, the next days and weeks promise to be eventful ones in Starkville.
In the meanwhile, the only thing known for sure is that the loss marked the end of the careers of Brian Bryant and Dee Bost, one of the most decorated players in the history of Mississippi State basketball.
"Dee (Bost) has had a great career, and Brian (Bryant) has really played his best ball of late," said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. "Those guys will be missed. You do not know how quick that feeling comes, and it does not hit you until it is over. It is over for those guys."
After a horrid start to the game, it amazingly looked for a while as if the Mississippi State season would continue with a second round match up with the Seton Hall Pirates.
The Bulldogs allowed the Minutemen to go on an 8-0 run to open the game, and Mississippi State looked like a team poised to be bounced from the NIT. Arnett Moultrie had other ideas, dropping 18 points in the first half to keep the Bulldogs' head above water as the squads reached the half with UMass holding a 41-31 lead.
Stansbury was proud of the effort his team showed in hanging in the game.
"I was awful proud of our guys for not laying down and not quitting," said Stansbury.
With just under eight minutes to play, a layup by Bryant put the Bulldogs ahead for the first time in the game at 63-62, capping off a 12-0 run by Mississippi State. The teams traded the lead down the stretch, and when a Bost runner missed the mark, the teams headed to overtime.
Bost finished with 20 points and 13 assists.
UMass took a three point lead into the final minute of the first overtime period, but Jalen Steele drained a three to force a second overtime period.
UMass jumped out to a lead in the second overtime on a Sean Miller tip in, and the Minutemen never trailed again.
Moultrie, who scored a career high 34 points, left the door open to a return after the game.
"I have a timetable," Moultrie said. "I'll decide in the next few weeks, and if I do come back, it's to play with (Rodney) Hood for one more year."
One player who seems to be on his way out is Sidney. Less than an hour after the loss, he sent a tweet saying, "I'm out." Many quickly assumed that he was referring to his time in Starkville.
Sidney, who struggled to play over 25 minutes in a contest during the season, saw his playing time slashed dramatically against Georgia and UMass. After picking up his third foul early in the second half Tuesday, Sidney never reentered the contest.