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MSU misses out on NCAA tournament, NIT bound

Humphrey Coliseum. Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

Selection Sunday has come and gone and Mississippi State’s bubble has been busted.

After opening the SEC tournament with a win over LSU, the Bulldogs (22-11) weren’t able to get past Tennessee in the second round and fell 62-59 in a close one. MSU likely needed a win over the Vols and some luck to have a shot at being one of the last four teams in the NCAA tournament field. Now bound for the NIT, the 4th seeded Bulldogs will face the 5th seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers on Wednesday.

Neither team lit up the scoreboard in the UT/MSU matchup, and the Bulldogs shot just 35%. The Vols shot 33%, so MSU had a chance to pull away if they could’ve strung a few shots together.  Shooting struggles aside, the Bulldogs cut the lead to 2 with 42 seconds remaining and had a chance to win at the buzzer, but the shot fell short.

A scary moment in the loss to Tennessee came when Nick Weatherspoon went down hard and play continued. When a fast break opportunity developed for MSU, a Bulldog player appeared to land on Weatherspoon’s neck, but reports indicate that he has movement in all extremities after being taken to the hospital as a precaution.

The refs have received criticism for not stopping play after the initial injury, and the SEC released a statement after the game.

“The SEC expresses its sincere concern for Nick Weatherspoon and his family and prays for a full and rapid recovery.

The play on which Nick Weatherspoon was injured unfolded in a rapid sequence of events that led to the continuation of play after Nick initially fell under the Mississippi State basket,” said Mark Whitehead, SEC Coordinator of Officials. “The officials did not recognize Nick was injured until after the transition that led to the completion of the play where, unfortunately, he remained on the floor.”

The SEC appreciates the quick response of the sports medicine staff and EMS personnel.”

Disappointed in missing out on the NCAA tournament, head coach Ben Howland still stressed the positive of advancing to the NIT.

“We’re excited to be in the postseason. It’s a big step for us,” Howland said.

Mississippi State has not advanced to the NCAA tournament since 2009, and this their first NIT appearance since 2012. Quinndary Weatherspoon has led the way for the Bulldogs all season, and he says that they have a chance to win the NIT.

“We’ve worked hard all year to get to postseason,” the elder Weatherspoon said. “We’re not just satisfied to be here. Our goal is to get to New York and win it all. When we are playing our best, we can beat anyone. I know we’re all excited about this opportunity.”

Tip-off from Starkville is set for 8:00 p.m.

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