CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The Mississippi State men’s basketball team saw its season end Wednesday night with a 60-57 loss to Virginia in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at John Paul Jones Arena.
The Bulldogs end their season with an overall record of 18-16 and an 8-10 record in Southeastern Conference play. The Cavaliers improve to 20-13 (12-8) and advance to play North Texas.
MSU was led by redshirt junior forward Tolu Smith with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while junior guard Iverson Molinar and graduate forward Garrison Brooks both scored 13 points. Molinar added four assists, while Brooks added five assists.
Virginia was led by senior forward Jayden Gardner with 16 points and sophomore guard Reece Beekman with 14 points and six assists.
Both teams shot 23-for-46 (50%) from the floor, while MSU held a slight 27-24 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 14 times compared to nine for the Cavaliers. Virginia turned those 14 turnovers into 17 points.
The Cavaliers’ defense stifled MSU to start the game, forcing six turnovers in the first six minutes of play, three of which were backcourt violations. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as nine points in the first half before the teams went into the halftime break with Virginia leading 27-19.
In the second half, MSU made its first seven shots to take its first lead of the game at 34-32 with 15:15 left in the game. Virginia answered with a 12-2 run to go up 46-38 with 9:21 to play.
After not making a single 3-pointer for the first 32:15 of play, the Bulldogs drained four shots from deep in a five-minute span to draw within one point at 54-53. However, the Cavaliers went on a 6-0 run to go up 60-53 with 35 seconds left. Virginia missed its final three free throws of the game, which allowed MSU one last attempt to tie the game, but the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on the opportunity.