Mississippi State wasn’t quite in must-win mode Tuesday night, but a third straight defeat to open SEC play would have been a bitter pill to swallow. Instead, the Bulldogs tasted a sweet victory, winning a back and forth contest over the Florida Gators 71-68. State shot the ball at a great 53% clip, including 58% from behind the three point line, but 12 offensive boards and 15 MSU turnovers kept Florida in the game. In the end, Bulldog senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon took control, scoring with 3.6 seconds remaining and drawing a foul to give the Bulldogs the final margin.
— MSU Men’s Basketball (@HailStateMBK) January 16, 2019
Quinndary Weatherspoon knows a thing or two about game winning shots, as this one gave him five for his career. Ben Howland drew up a play to give either Weatherspoon or point guard Lamar Peters a chance to drive to the rim and get the bucket. In the end, Peters deferred to the senior, and the decision paid off. Florida had a chance with 3.6 seconds remaining, but the Gators came up empty, sealing the game up for the maroon and white.
Lamar Peters DISTGUSTING crossover ? he got 16 at the half ? pic.twitter.com/Yqb6JwW0Fx
— VERSACEBOYENT (@VersaceBoyEnt2) January 16, 2019
The closing seconds belonged to Weatherspoon, but the first half was all Lamar Peters. He went on a personal 11-0 run that pushed the Bulldog lead to 8, finishing with 16 points in the first 20 minutes of the game. Peters didn’t have a bucket in the second half, but his presence freed up some shots for his teammates, and he dished out 6 assists. MSU has showed at times this year it can win when Peters isn’t at his best, but it sure makes it easier for the Bulldogs when he is.
HOW BIG WAS THIS WIN?
Howland: "This was really important."
— Brian Hadad (@brianhadad) January 16, 2019
Ben Howland was right. 0-2 in the conference is manageable, 0-3 with four of your next five games on the road is a much taller task. Like I said at the beginning of this post, it wasn’t a must win game, but it was as close as you can get in mid-January. It was easy to tell the Bulldogs were lacking some confidence coming into this game, now with a win, we’ll see if this team can grab hold of some momentum entering what appears to be a difficult stretch.
Commodores return home for a three-game home stand with South Carolina leading things off Wednesday.
— Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball (@VandyMBB) January 15, 2019
Vanderbilt will take on South Carolina on Wednesday before they welcome the Bulldogs to Memorial Gymnasium Saturday night. The Bulldogs haven’t won in Nashville since January 2012, when Rick Stansbury was still on the bench. State dropped a heartbreaker to the Commodores a season ago, with a Riley LaChance three pointer coming with .5 left being the margin of defeat in an 81-80 decision. Vandy sits at 9-6 overall, 0-3 in conference, and are missing their star player, freshman point guard Darius Garland, who is out for the season with a meniscus injury. The Commodores were 4-0 before his injury, only 5-6 since. Mississippi State will look to make it two wins in a row in conference play and get back to .500 with a road trip to Kentucky looming.
We’ll talk about this in much greater depth on the Thunder & Lightning Podcast and SportsTalk Mississippi on Wednesday.
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics