CONWAY, S.C. (AP) — Jeremiah Robinson-Earl scored 22 points, and No. 17 Villanova beat Mississippi State 83-76 on Friday in a Myrtle Beach Invitational semifinal.
Collin Gillespie added 18 points, Saddiq Bey finished with 17 and Jermaine Samuels had 14 and converted a key three-point play in the closing seconds for the Wildcats (4-1).
They shot 59%, made at least 10 3-pointers for the second straight day and never trailed in the second half, advancing to the championship round of their in-season holiday tournament for the seventh straight year.
Tyson Carter scored 22 points to lead Mississippi State (5-1), and his layup with just over a minute left pulled the Bulldogs to 77-74.
Villanova milked the clock before Robinson-Earl was fouled on a dunk attempt with 35.1 seconds to play and hit two free throws. Carter then airballed a deep 3-pointer with 27.8 seconds left and Samuels sealed it with his three-point play with 13 seconds left.
Reggie Perry had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Robert Woodard II added 17 points for the Bulldogs.
Villanova: This certainly counts as a close call for the Wildcats, whose first four games — three wins over mid-majors, and a loss to No. 10 Ohio State — were all decided by at least 20 points. It turns out they needed every bit of the cushion an early 16-0 run provided to maintain their lead throughout the final 20 minutes.
Mississippi State: There were questions about how good the Bulldogs really are, because their five victories have come against mid-majors with none ranked higher than No. 154 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings. They hung with their first Top 25 opponent, closing within one possession down the stretch, but couldn’t come up with the key plays that would have put them over the hump.
Villanova: Plays either No. 24 Baylor or Coastal Carolina on Sunday in the championship.
Mississippi State: Faces the Baylor-Coastal Carolina loser on Sunday in the third-place game.
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