STARKVILLE, Miss – Everyone inside Humphrey Coliseum held their breath.

Only a second or two was left on the clock in No. 17 Mississippi State’s game against Nicholls on Saturday. The Colonels created a turnover as MSU inbounded the ball and were able to fire up a last-ditch 3-pointer that would’ve upset the Bulldogs.

The shot looked good, but…CLANK. The ball bounced off the rim. A Nicholls tip-in attempt was unsuccessful, too. State survived 68-66.

The Dawgs wouldn’t have won a basketball beauty contest on this day. They did, however, win yet another basketball game.

“It wasn’t pretty,” MSU guard Dashawn Davis said. “It was definitely ugly. We definitely could’ve done better, but an ugly win is better than a loss any day. We’re just going to have to take that, get better and move forward.”

Tolu Smith scored a team-high 15 points for State as Davis and Tyler Stevenson contributed 14 apiece to lead MSU to victory.

The triumph kept State as one of only six unbeaten college basketball teams in the country. It also provided ample opportunity for growth moving forward.

The Bulldogs can learn from a first half that saw them shoot just 26.9 percent from the field before heading to the locker room down 30-27 at the intermission.

“We all knew we weren’t playing how we are supposed to play,” Davis said of MSU’s halftime thoughts.

MSU responded immediately, using a 23-8 run over the first eight minutes of the second half to take a commanding 50-38 lead. However, soon, other teachable moments arrived and had Bulldogs everywhere biting their nails.

With 1:39 to go, Nicholls had made it a one-possession game. Undeterred, State was able to fight and move back in front 68-64 with only five seconds left.

Most times, it wouldn’t been an insurmountable lead given the time remaining. However, an untimely Bulldog foul put Nicholls at the free-throw line, and the Colonels hit both shots to keep their hopes alive.

They’d then grab the basketball on the State inbound attempt, setting up the frantic final two seconds that fortunately for the Bulldogs, went in their favor.

All in maroon and white could take a huge sigh of relief, including MSU head coach Chris Jans. Jans was proud to win, but ready to use the whole situation – particularly the closing sequence – as a means to grow as a group.

“We weren’t assignment correct a lot down the stretch and it almost cost us,” Jans said. “It almost cost us a college basketball game because we kind of started to do our own thing a little bit. I don’t think it was because guys wanted to be a hero. I think they wanted to win, and they felt like could do something to influence the game in a positive way. But in the end, it hurt us.”

It hurt, but not enough to lose. What Jans is now concerned with is making sure similar things don’t haunt State in the games to come.

MSU’s slate is about to become incredibly challenging. The Dawgs will face a talented Drake team on Tuesday. After that, Southeastern Conference play begins.

Jans’ job, he says? Trying to make sure what MSU went through on Saturday provides progress for his team.

“Just because you make silly plays doesn’t mean you’re going to learn from it,” Jans said. “You could do it again. That’s my job is to get them to remember that. I’ll talk about that in huddles [in the future and say], ‘Hey, remember when we played Nicholls State and we were up three shooting a free throw and I said if he misses it, we’ll foul, and if he doesn’t, we’re not?’ Things like that, we’ll draw upon those experiences to the best of my memory to try and help us when we’re in those situations in the future.”

Sure, Saturday was stressful for Jans and the Dawgs. However, it was still successful.

Now, the work begins to make sure the success continues, and it can do so as a zero remains in the MSU loss column.

“I’d much rather learn and grow while you win than have to learn tough, tough lessons while you lose,” Jans said.