New York, NY—Another exciting college basketball season began at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, November 15 with a meaningful doubleheader. The two winningest basketball programs in history, Kentucky and Kansas clashed in one game, and Mike Kryscewski achieved his 903rd college basketball win, an NCAA record, as Duke defeated Michigan State in the other contest that evening.
Two nights later, the annual 2 K Classic to Benefit Coaches v. Cancer doubleheader began a two-night stand on the Garden court. The first semi-final on Thursday pitted 18/19 ranked Texas A & M against Mississippi State. To the surprise of many, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State took a commanding early lead. A 15-5 start gave the Bulldogs a double digit advantage at 16:25. A run of 15 unanswered points gave Mississippi State a lead of 31-9 with 10 minutes remaining in the half. The Aggies completed the half with a 23-10 run to cut the halftime lead to single figures (41-32). The lead only fluctuated between 8 and 16 points in the second half but held at 9 as the Buldogs were victorious, 69-60.
Most of the stats of the two teams were surprisingly similar. Each team netted 22 baskets on 54 shots and sunk six three-pointers. The assist/turnover ratio of the Bulldogs was 9/15 and for the Aggies it was 9/16. The nine point differential was achieved at the free throw line. Mississippi State netted 19 of 31 attempts and the Aggies sunk 10 of 14.
Rick Stansbury, the winning coach, contrasted the win with his team’s only loss to Akron eight days earlier, “tonight was the first time we had all of our pieces. Our effort was very, very good on both ends. Our energy level was like it was supposed to be.”
The crowd of 9,036 was seated as the long awaited contest between St. John’s and Arizona began. The Red Storm took a 4-0 advantage but the lead changed hands at 16:49 as Kevin Parrom of the Bronx sunk a three- pointer. St. John’s reversed the advantage at 7:57 but the half concluded Wildcats leading by a score of 44-41. A 1`9-4 run by the Red Storm gave them a 6658 lead with 7:04 left in the contest. The tide turned again as the Wildcats were ahead 74-68 after a 16-2 run. Arizona reached the final with a hard fought 74-68 victory.
Although only 6,338 attended the contests on Friday night, they saw two competitive games. The outcome of the consolation game between the Red Storm and the Aggies was not decided until the final second. The Aggies built an early lead to double figures (21-11) at 9:17. The Red Storm cut the deficit to a basket (32-30) at the half.
Texas scored the first eight points in the second half to again lead by ten. SJU scored the next eight to again trail by two points. Two free throws by Nurideen Lindsey gave St. John’s its first advantage (55-54) with 4:23 on the clock. The final points of the game came on a jumper by Elston Turner with eight seconds remaining. The 58-57 lead held as Lindsey missed two free throws with two seconds left.
Turner spoke of the game after its conclusion, “I don’t think I have ever played in a game like that (38 free throw attempts to 3 for the Bulldogs). That’s some serious adversity right there and that just shows the character of our team. We just kept fighting and fighting and came away with the win.”
The final was not as exciting for as the consolation contest. Although the game was quite competitive throughout, it ended in a double figure victory for Mississippi State (67-57). Coach Billy Stansbury gave credit to his entire team, “I’m awful proud of our team. It’s not the starting five that win games; it’s how 6, 7 and 8 play that’s the difference.”
Arnett Moultrie on his 21st birthday was selected as the MVP of the two day tourney. In the final, he scored 19 and grabbed 10 boards. He commented, “I wasn’t doing anything out there but help my team win. My role is to try to get every rebound.”
The basketball tournament is sponsored by the NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches) and the American Cancer Society. Since its inception at MSG, $5 million has been raised. Steve Lavin, coach of St. John’s, is suffering with prostate cancer and Billy Kennedy, coach of Texas A & M, has been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s. The two show the courage and inspiration of those who fulfill their responsibilities regardless of physical disease.
The next big college tournament at MSG is the Pre-Season NIT on November 23 and 25.