By Gregg Ellis
NEW YORK - As devastating as Tuesday's loss to West Virginia in the semifinals of the MasterCard NIT was for Dietric Slater, it wasn't the first time he's suffered defeat in the closing seconds of a playoff game.
Ironically, it was in another semi-final showdown, the Class 5A state tournament in 2003 against a Travis Outlaw-led Starkville team.
This time, though, it was Slater taking the final shot.
As time was winding down with Starkville up 47-46, Slater misfired on a game-winning jumper.
He did lead the War Eagles that afternoon with 30 points and 11 rebounds, and on Tuesday, he was again his team's top guy.
In a remarkable 37 minutes of action, the banged up senior scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the losing effort.
"This one hurts," he said. "I scored a lot of points, but I didn't do enough. I should have gotten more rebounds. You can always play harder."
The 6-foot-3 Slater was under the goal when Darris Nichols connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Mountaineers a 63-62 win.
Slater described the play as one that lasted, "an eternity."
Mainly because it was one that ended his collegiate career.
"At first, I thought it was short," said Slater, who said he hopes to play professionally overseas. "But the longer it was in the air, you sensed it had a chance."
As for the season-high 37 minutes he logged, he said he didn't want to leave anything on the floor.
"I could have played more if needed," he said. "I didn't want to look back and regret anything."
MSU coach Rick Stansbury has praised Slater's toughness and ability to rebound against much taller competition all year.
Tuesday was no different.
"Dietric's play is important every night. Every single night," he said. "He gives you every thing he's got - great effort and consistency."