Thu, 20 Jan 2022

Payton Willis helps Minnesota squeak by Mississippi State

Field Level Media
06 Dec 2021, 07:40 GMT+10

Payton Willis made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining to lift Minnesota to an 81-76 win over host Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon in Starkville, Miss.

Willis finished with 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting for Minnesota (7-0), which has won its first seven games for the first time since the 2017-18 campaign. Jamison Battle finished with 20 points, and Eric Curry and E.J. Stephens tallied 12 points apiece.

Iverson Molinar led all scorers with 26 points for Mississippi State (6-2). Garrison Brooks registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Golden Gophers scored the final five points to secure the win. Willis followed his tiebreaking 3-pointer with a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left.

Molinar converted back-to-back three-point plays to help Mississippi State even the score at 76-76 with 41 seconds remaining. He had a layup and a free throw with 1:29 remaining to make it 76-73, and he replicated the effort to tie the game.

The Golden Gophers opened the second half on a 20-12 run to regain a double-digit advantage. Curry drew a foul on Mississippi State's Shakeel Moore and made a pair of free throws to put Minnesota on top 55-44 with 13:35 to go.

A 3-pointer by Willis, followed by a layup by Luke Loewe, increased Minnesota's lead to 60-46 with 12:37 remaining.

The Bulldogs rallied to pull within 70-64 with 5:27 to go. Tolu Smith made a layup off an assist from D.J. Jeffries to slice the deficit to six.

Minnesota led 35-32 at the half.

The Golden Gophers stormed to a 14-0 lead to start the game. Loewe and Willis had five points apiece during the early scoring outburst, and Curry and Battle each made a jump shot.

Mississippi State bounced back with a 20-9 run to narrow the deficit to 23-20 with 6:29 remaining in the first half. Molinar capped the run with a pair of free throws followed by a jump shot on the next possession.

The Golden Gophers pulled ahead 35-29 when Battle drained a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the half. But the Bulldogs pulled within three when Brooks buried a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

--Field Level Media

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