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Updated: Saturday, March 6, 2004 6:41 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(5) Mississippi St 82, Alabama 81 (ot)

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) -- Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury calls Timmy Bowers a warrior. A road warrior, that is.

Bowers tied the game at the end of regulation and later scored on a driving layup with one second left in overtime as fifth-ranked Mississippi State escaped with an 82-81 victory over Alabama.

Bowers scored 20 points and Lawrence Roberts had 18 and 21 rebounds for for Mississippi State, which clinched the best overall record in the Southeastern Conference and continued its road dominance.

Mississippi State (25-2, 14-2 SEC West) had already wrapped up the West Division title and clinched its first outright crown since the 1962-63 season.

"He is a warrior. He has made this team all year long," Stansbury said. "He's a winner."

The Bulldogs finished 12-0 on the opposition's home floor, including an 8-0 mark in SEC games. They also avenged a home loss to the Crimson Tide on February 21.

Mississippi State erased a 47-31 deficit by outscoring the Crimson Tide, 44-28, in the second half to send the game into overtime. They finally survived when Bowers drove along the baseline and scored over Kennedy Winston for the game-winner.

"These guys never gave up, they never quit believing in themselves," Stansbury said. "I couldn't be more proud of them. We didn't play our best early on, but we just kept making the plays late."

One of those plays was by Bowers, whose basket with one second left in regulation tied the game at 75-75. He made a 3-pointer 13 seconds earlier to cut the deficit to three points.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Crimson Tide (16-11, 8-8), who could have made a strong case for an NCAA Tournament berth with a victory.

"It's hard," Winston said. "We were in control and we had them right where we wanted them, and we let them get back into the game."

Earnest Shelton scored 25 points and Antoine Pettway had 21 for the Crimson Tide. Pettway was one of four seniors honored before their final home game.

"We are disappointed, obviously, our players are disappointed," Alabama coach Mike Gottfried said. "At the same time, (Mississippi State) made some key shots and some key plays."

Alabama led by 18 points points early in the second half, but the Bulldogs marched back, drawing even at 67-67 on a basket by Branden Vincent with 3:10 left.

Winsome Frazier scored 15 points and Shane Power added ll for Mississippi State.


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