Mississippi State Does More With Less, Takes Down Missouri 68-49

On a night where Nick Weatherspoon sat on the bench in street clothes, still unable to play as a result of his indefinite suspension, and where Lamar Peters and Aric Holman, two players everyone would have identified as key cogs before the season began, were held scoreless, Mississippi State got off to a blazing start then took over in the closing minutes to take a 68-49 win over the Missouri Tigers. The win moved the Bulldogs to 21-7 on the season, 9-6 in the SEC, and all but assured the team of a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade. State got strong performances from Quinndary Weatherspoon and Reggie Perry as usual, but it was Tyson Carter delivering 22 points that proved to be the difference on Tuesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.

“THE MICROWAVE”

Tyson Carter has always been a good role player for Mississippi State, able to provide some three point shooting off the bench and an extra ball handler, but since his insertion into the starting lineup following Nick Weatherspoon’s suspension, Carter has elevated his game. The Starkville junior has been averaging 15 PPG over the past four, and his 22 tonight was the real difference for his squad. He certainly had the attention of Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin, who dubbed Carter “The Microwave”, saying he can heat up quickly ala Detroit Pistons star Vinnie Johnson of the Bad Boy era. Carter’s recent play does raise the question, how will Ben Howland shuffle things up should Weatherspoon be granted a return? With the Bulldogs playing the way they are at this most important time of the year, I would not be surprised if Carter remains in the first five.

DEFENSE DEFENSE DEFENSE

MSU would finish with an 8-1 advantage on blocks, and a 9-3 edge on steals. Defense has been the key for Mississippi State in this five game winning streak, as they have not allowed an opponent more than 67 points. State has been so aggressive on defense over the past couple of weeks, sparked by the emergence of Abdul Ado as more of a rim protector, and Robert Woodard continuing to evolve in his role off the bench. Woodard had two of State’s blocks tonight, and his energy as a defender is noticeable.

PERRY PERFORMS AGAIN

Perry would end up with 15 points and 9 rebounds, narrowly missing a double-double. They say at this point in the year, freshmen aren’t freshmen any more, and Perry certainly doesn’t look like a guy who was playing high school basketball 12 months ago. Most importantly for him, he’s getting to the line and converting, hitting 77% of his shots from the charity stripe since entering the starting lineup against Ole Miss six games ago. Perry’s continued improvement week in and week out has been a huge piece of the improvement State has shown since that slow start.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Auburn takes on Georgia on Wednesday night before welcoming Mississippi State to the Plains on Saturday. Auburn has been one of the disappointments of the season, a preseason top 15 team that many thought could be a dark horse national title contender. Instead, injuries and inconsistency have the Tigers at 18-9, 7-7 in the league, and stumbling through the final weeks of the season. MSU took the first game of this matchup in Starkville 92-84, and I would expect a similar kind of shootout between two of the league’s better offensive teams.

Plenty more recap of this game on the Thunder & Lightning Podcast, and Wednesday’s SportsTalk Mississippi, live from Jones College.

Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics