FORT MYERS, Fla. (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah men’s basketball team dropped a tight battle with Mississippi State Wednesday night in the championship game of the Ft. Myers Tip-Off, falling to the Bulldogs 52-49.
Dashawn Davis knocked down six 3-pointers and Tolu Smith added a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds as Mississippi State held off Utah 52-49 to win the Fort Myers Tip-off tournament’s Beach Division on Wednesday night.
Utah falls to 4-2 on the year, while the Bulldogs remain undefeated through six games.
Marco Anthony hit the first of two free throws with 4:37 left to give Utah a three-point lead, 45-42, but Davis answered from deep to tie the game, and Smith put back an offensive rebound to give the Bulldogs the lead with three minutes left then pushed the lead to five, 52-47 with just under two minutes left.
Davis finished with 18 points to lead Mississippi State (6-0) and D.J. Jeffries added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Anthony had 10 points and eight rebounds to lead Utah (4-2). Ben Carlson added 10 points.
Both teams struggled offensively. Mississippi State was just 17 of 67 from the field (25.4%) but knocked down 9 of 38 from beyond the arc. Utah shot 17 of 52 (32.7%) from the floor, 4 of 19 from distance (21.1%).
As anticipated, the first half between the Utes and Bulldogs was a battle with Mississippi State leading most of the game. However, Utah (4-2) was able to weather its 11 turnovers to keep within 25-21 of MSU at the break thanks to a huge 3-pointer from Ben Carlson and pair of free throws from Gavin Baxter down the stretch.
After Mississippi State opened the second frame with a three, the Runnin’ Utes responded with an 11-0 run capped off by a pair of free throws from Marco Anthony out of the 15:35 media break. That lead was short-lived with the Bulldogs battling back to retake the 35-34 edge on a 3-pointer from Dashawn Davis. However, Lazar Stefanovic and Gabe Madsen teamed up to hit back-to-back shots from downtown to put the Runnin’ Utes back on top 40-35 – which forced an MSU (6-0) timeout with 11:13 left to go.
Some back and forth action ensued with both teams having a hard time finding the bottom of the bucket until Rollie Worster made a move to the rack that gave the Utes a narrow 44-42 (5:09) advantage before Anthony hit 1-of-2 from the stripe.
After another 3-pointer from Davis tied things up (45-45), Tolu Smith put the Bulldogs back on top after grabbing an offensive board to set the Utes back 47-45 with 2:41 remaining. Utah went on to hit 2-of-4 from the free-throw at the end but a 3-pointer from Davis once again followed by a bucket from Smith gave Mississippi state just enough cushion despite Utah getting a good luck at the basket to tie things up.
Ben Carlson finished the night with 10 points and four rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting for Utah while Anthony chipped in with 10 boards and eight rebounds in his first start of the season. Worster closed the night with six points and nine rebounds for Utah.
Anthony was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds. Smith was named the tournament MVP and joined by Davis for MSU while Ja’Von Franklin (Georgia Tech) and Kam Jones (Marquette) were also named to the all-tournament team.
The Utes will have a short turnaround as it welcomes in St. Thomas into the Huntsman Center for the first meeting ever between the two programs on Saturday, Nov. 26, for a 6 p.m. tip-off.