Northwestern never trailed in its semifinal game.
Mississippi State had to work a little harder in its semifinal game.
But both teams won Saturday to stay undefeated and will face each other in the championship game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament on Sunday afternoon in Uncasville, Conn.
“You only get a chance during the season to play for a couple of championships,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “To have a game against an outstanding Mississippi State team to bring a trophy back to Evanston, our guys are going to be really motivated to play the game.”
The Wildcats (4-0) raced to a 22-2 lead against cold-shooting Rhode Island. The lead shrunk to nine at halftime, but it was never smaller than that after halftime in a 72-61 win.
“Our guys were really locked in defensively,” Collins said. “We forced tough shots, we were protecting the lane well and then we were executing (offensively).”
The Bulldogs (4-0) scored the final six points of the first half to take a 36-30 halftime lead and never allowed the margin to shrink to fewer than three points in the second half before taking control in a 76-64 win against Washington State.
“We really finished the half well,” MSU coach Chris Jans said. “We had a lot of momentum. The locker room was fired up, and we had the right tone. We didn’t act like it was over or anything like that, and we had the right mindset.”
Cameron Matthews and Josh Hubbard scored 13 points each, Dashawn Davis had 12 and Jimmy Bell Jr. 11 for the Bulldogs, whose bench outscored the WSU bench 33-5.
“I just believe in the camaraderie of the team,” Jans said. “I believe it keeps people motivated. I believe in competition every day.”
–Field Level Media
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