(AP) — Sean Miller thought the scoreboard was playing tricks on him.
No matter how often the Arizona coach looked up it seemed as though his team was in the same situation against Mississippi State.
"It was a four-point deficit for what seemed like 20 minutes. We just couldn't make that defensive or offensive play that would have gotten us into a tie or the lead," he said. "I credit Mississippi State for that."
The Bulldogs closed the game on a 10-2 run and beat the 15th-ranked Wildcats 67-57 on Friday night to win the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden.
"We got down 7-0 at the start of the game and we didn't really seize control at the start of the second half, either," Miller said. "The fact we had the deeper team didn't help us tonight."
Arizona had used its depth to control its semifinal win over St. John's, a game the Wildcats closed with a 23-6 run.
"We didn't answer the bell in the second half and we lost to a better team," Miller said.
Miller had said since the preseason polls came out that he didn't think the Wildcats deserved to be ranked so high, but he also makes sure everybody knows he feels they could be there at the end of the season.
"We've seen a lot in an early month and I'm very happy with four wins," Miller said. "We played 40 minutes against zone and pressure against St. John's and then you go from a 9 o'clock start to playing the next day against a very different style with Mississippi State's size, with only a shootaround to prepare. But we didn't play well on offense or defense for sure."
Arnett Moultrie, a 6-foot-11 junior forward, had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (4-1), who won an in-season tournament for the first time since beating host Arizona 75-74 in the 2000 Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic.
Moultrie was limited to 5 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. He had nine points and four rebounds as the Bulldogs took a 35-34 lead.
"My main focus when that happened was to cheer on my teammates and then come out and have a good second half," Moultrie said. "It is an amazing feeling to play like that at the Garden, the biggest stage you can play on."
Solomon Hill had 12 points and nine rebounds for Arizona (4-1), while Jesse Perry had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"His size overwhelmed us around the basket," Miller said of Moultrie.
Josiah Turner made two free throws with 5:13 to play to bring the Wildcats within 57-55.
Moultrie started the big closing run with a basket down low and a tip-in. Arizona couldn't get anything going in the final minutes against the Bulldogs, missing six of its last seven shots from the field.
"We survived the first half with Arnett playing 5 minutes," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "I thought that when the game got on the line in the second half, we stepped up. We held them to eight field goals in the second half and outrebounded them 23-13 in the second half. Those are winning plays and that's what you do to win championships."
Mississippi State, which beat No. 19 Texas A&M in the semifinals, struggled from the outside, making 4 of 16 3-point attempts — including going 1 of 10 in the second half — but the Bulldogs did a great job inside, outscoring the Wildcats 38-24 in the paint. That led to some easy baskets as they finished with a 10-2 advantage on fast-break points.
Perry and Hill combined to go 11 for 22 from the field for the Wildcats, while the rest of the team went 12 of 35. Arizona was 6 of 20 from 3-point range.
"They definitely made it hard to score around the rim," Perry said.
Stansbury couldn't say enough about senior guard Dee Bost, who finished with eight points and six assists.
"Stats can be misleading," Stansbury said. "Dee gave us a tremendous effort going against those guards and that's one thing you can control — effort."
"There can't be many guards as experienced as Dee Bost," Miller said. "He controls the tempo. It's difficult to deal with them because he does control the tempo and that was the difference in the game.
"As a defensive team you can't pick and choose when to play hard. You have to play hard on every possession and we learned that tonight."