STARKVILLE, Miss -- — Payton Willis hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to retake the lead and added two free throws as Minnesota remained undefeated with an 81-76 win over Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon.
Mississippi State never led and trailed by 14 midway through the second half but battled back to tie the game, 76-76, with 43 seconds left on a three-point play by Iverson Molinar.
The Gophers opened the game on a 14-0 run but the Bulldogs got within one, 35-34 on a jumper by Shakeel Moore 12 seconds into the second half only to have Minnesota go on a 16-2 run fueled by three Jamison Battle 3-pointers to take a 51-41 lead with 15 minutes left and, after back-to-back 3s from E.J. Stephens, held a 66-52 advantage with under 10 minutes left.
Molinar turned two three-point plays in the final 90 seconds to pull the Bulldogs even, but his 3-point shot with 14 seconds left to tie the game again was off the mark.
Willis hit 4 of 8 from long range and finished with 24 points and dished seven assists. Battle added 20 points as all five Minnesota starters scored in double figures. Eric Curry and Stephens each added 12 points and Luke Loewe added 11.
Molinar scored 26 points and dished six assists to lead the Bulldogs, who lost for the first time at home. Garrison Brooks contributed 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Minnesota remained undefeated (7-0) and handed Mississippi State (6-2) its first home-court loss. The Golden Gophers open Big Ten Conference play Wednesday at No. 22 Michigan State.
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