After 50 minutes of battle on the hardwood, MSU's 100th season of basketball came to an end with a heart-breaking 101-96 double overtime defeat to Massachusetts in the opening-round of the National Invitational Tournament.
"We came out here to play hard and to win," MSU senior point guard Dee Bost said. "There was a lot of disappointment when we didn't make the NCAA Tournament. We felt that for a couple of days. But when it was time to throw the ball up, we came out here to try to get a win."
Instead, the Bulldogs first postseason appearance since 2010 ended with a first-round home loss in the NIT. The Bulldogs had last played in this event two years ago, winning before losing in a pair of games, also in this arena.
With the sting of missing out on the NCAA Tournament still apparent, the Bulldogs struggled through a large part of the opening half. The Minutemen (23-11) scored the game's first eight points and found little resistance throughout the night on the defensive end.
"If there is one thing you point to from our season it on the defensive end," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "For whatever reason, this team was never able to defend like the teams we have had here in the past. We had a great deal of difficulty getting stops on a consistent basis."
Still, the Bulldogs (21-12) shook the early doldrums to make a game of it. The hosts battled back from a 10-point deficit to within 23-19 on an Arnett Moultrie 3-point basket. The UMass lead was five before a 7-0 run stretched the advantage to 12 points.
The Minutemen shot 46.2 percent from the floor in the first half and led 41-31 at halftime.
"I am awfully proud of our guys for continuing to fight," Stansbury said. "For the seniors, this was a tough way to go out. Dee (Bost) has made so many contributions to the program and Brian (Bryant) was playing his best basketball here late."
The Bulldogs battled back from a 14-point deficit in the second half. Down 62-51, MSU took its first lead of the contest on a 12-0 run, capped by a Bryant jumper with 7:57 left.
MSU would hold one other lead in regulation time. Two free throws by Moultrie with 41 seconds left in regulation tied the contest. Bost missed an off-balance jumper as regulation time expired.
In the first overtime, a Jalen Steele 3-pointer gave the hosts their biggest lead of the night at 78-74 with 4:16 left. The Minutemen battled back with a pair of critical 3-pointers and play continued.
The Bulldogs held no lead in the game's second overtime period.
"We played as a team and fought hard tonight," Moultrie said. "We came out competing and trying to get a win. It didn't work out."
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 32 of 75 shots from the field (42.7 percent), 12 of 31 shots from 3-point range (38.7 percent) and 20 of 25 shots from the foul line (80.0 percent). The Minutemen hit 39 of 90 shots from the field (43.3 percent), 9 of 28 shots from 3-point range (32.1 percent) and 14 of 19 shots from the foul line (73.7 percent).
UMass held a 56-41 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 22 assists and 15 turnovers, while the Minutemen had 15 assists and 12 turnovers.
Moultrie paced the Bulldogs with a career high 34 points. Bost had his third double-double (20 points, career-high tying 13 assists), while Steele had 17 points and Bryant had 12 points. Rodney Hood had a team-best eight rebounds.
Chaz Williams paced the Minutemen with 28 points
UMass received double-doubles from Sean Carter (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Raphiael Putney (10 points, 16 rebounds). Javorn Farrell had 16 points and Terrell Vinson had 12 points.