ATLANTA -- Gary Ervin, playing against his former team, scored 15 points and Charles Thomas added a double-double to lead Arkansas past Mississippi State 81-72 on Saturday and into the SEC tournament championship game.
Thomas had 18 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Sonny Weems also had 18 points for Arkansas.Arkansas will play in Sunday's Southeastern Conference tournament final against the winner of Saturday's Florida-Mississippi game.Arkansas (21-12) may have played its way into the NCAA tournament field with the win. The Arkansas pep band chanted "Going to the show" in the final seconds.Ervin, who played his first two seasons at Mississippi State before transferring to Arkansas, was in the spotlight for the Razorbacks for the second straight day.Ervin hit the game-winning driving jumper for Arkansas in its 72-71 win over Vanderbilt on Friday, and on Saturday he helped push the Razorbacks into their first SEC tournament final since 2000.Mississippi State (18-13) shot only 41.7 percent from the field. Jamont Gordon made only 3 of 13 shots for 11 points. Ben Hansbrough led the Bulldogs with 12 points. Dietric Slater had 11 and Reginald Delk added 10.Slater, bothered by sore toes and wearing a splint on his injured left middle finger, was considered questionable to start. The senior swingman showed no sign of being slowed by the injuries as he had nine first-half points.Following a 33-33 tie, a driving basket by Slater gave the Bulldogs the lead. Mississippi State made six 3-pointers in the half, including one by Reginald Delk with 18 seconds left for a 40-39 lead at the break.Slater and 3-point specialist Barry Stewart each had three fouls in the half. Slater had to sit after drawing his fourth foul about six minutes into the second half; Stewart's fourth came only six seconds later, and he followed Slater to the bench.Slater wasn't the only member of the Mississippi State team who was dealing with an injury. Coach Rick Stansbury wore white sneakers with extra cushion after bruising his heels stomping on the sideline in Friday's overtime win over Kentucky.