ATHENS, GA (WLBT) - Quinndary Weatherspoon exploded for a career-best 31 points which included the game-clinching free throw with 0.5 seconds remaining to lift Mississippi State to a 68-67 victory over Georgia on Wednesday at Stegeman Coliseum.
Mississippi State (19-7, 7-6 SEC) captured the program’s first three-game SEC road winning streak dating back to the 2003-04 season when the Bulldogs won all eight of their SEC road games. The victory also enabled Mississippi State to remain in a three-way tie for sixth place with Auburn and Florida in the SEC standings.
For Weatherspoon, he amassed 16 of his 31 points to ignite a 22-1 run over a 4:48 span between the end of the first half and the start of the second half. The 31 points allowed Weatherspoon to surpass Rickey Brown (1977-78-79-80) for fourth place on MSU’s all-time scoring list. He was scalding hot early and connected on 10 of first 12 shot attempts. The Bulldogs improved to 25-3 overall and have won 17 of their last 18 games over the last two seasons when Weatherspoon eclipses the 20-point mark.
With the score tied at 67-67 during the closing seconds, Weatherspoon took the ball coast-to-coast. He used an Abdul Ado screen and was fouled on the game-winning shot attempt just inside the three-point line at the top of the key with 0.5 seconds to go.
Weatherspoon’s first foul shot rimmed out. However, an administrative technical foul was assessed to Georgia after an object was thrown onto the court from the stands during the free throw attempt. Weatherspoon calmly sank the go-ahead free throw. He misfired on his final foul shot, and the remaining time expired after Georgia collected the rebound.
Reggie Perry and Tyson Carter joined Weatherspoon with double-figure scoring performances at 12 and 11 points, respectively. Perry grabbed five rebounds, swatted two blocks and provided double figures for the fifth time in the last six games since being inserted into the starting lineup at Ole Miss on Feb. 2.
Carter dished out a game-leading four assists over a career-high 39 minutes of action. It marked the first time that the Starkville native has reeled off double figures during back-to-back games since road outings at Vanderbilt and No. 8 Kentucky in late January. Mississippi State has won 13 of 15 games when Carter reaches 10-plus points over the last two seasons.
Ado battled to his way to seven points and six rebounds whereas Robert Woodard II garnered all five of his points during the second half and hauled down six rebounds.
Georgia (10-16, 1-12 SEC) outrebounded Mississippi State by a 35-29 margin headed by 14 offensive boards. MSU was able to secure a 26-24 edge in paint points.
FROM THE BENCH WITH COACH HOWLAND
“I feel very fortunate to sneak out of here with a win tonight. I thought that the close of the first half, we did a good job at attacking the rim. Defense and offense led us to an 11-0 run to be up 11 at the half. I think the biggest lead was 17 [at the start of the second half]. They did a great job fighting back. One thing about [Georgia Head Coach] Tom’s [Crean] teams is that they don’t quit. Those guys played incredibly hard, and we’re very fortunate there at the end to not have to go to OT [overtime].”
“I thought Q [Quinndary Weatherspoon] did a good job of waiting to get that shot off late. He was fouled. I don’t know the rule, but I thought we should have got the free throw back. The first one, the front end, when the thing was thrown out there – that was a huge play, someone throwing a little bulldog … That was crazy. He [Weatherspoon] made the first one. I called him over and told him to miss the second one [on purpose] because with 0.5 [seconds] left. It’s hard once it bounces [off the rim] to get it and get the shot off which is what happened. We’re blessed and fortunate.”
“We kept going to him [Weatherspoon] which was smart … He wants to get to the NCAA Tournament. This is the only chance he has to get to the NCAA Tournament as a player is right now. I know he's very motivated to get into that tournament. We’re very pleased we got this one today because it's either 7-6 or 6-7 [in the SEC]. This was a big win for us – huge, after facing some tough runs."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Both sets of Bulldogs kept things relatively even for a majority of the first half which featured three ties and five lead changes.
Facing a 24-20 deficit at the 3:19 mark of the first half, Mississippi State found its groove and ripped off 16 of the last 17 points to turn the tables en route to a 36-35 lead into the locker room.
Quinndary Weatherspoon started the barrage with a three-pointer coupled with an Abdul Ado jump hook in the lane to knot the score at 25-25 with 2:37 to go.
MSU jumped in-front on a Weatherspoon floater in the lane through contact. The senior guard kept attacking the basket and followed with a left-handed layup. The Bulldogs used another Weatherspoon trey and turned defense into offense with a pair of dunks off of steals to make it 36-25.
That momentum would carry over into the second half as Mississippi State extended the margin to 42-25 on a Weatherspoon driving layup with 18:31 left. In total, Weatherspoon fired in 16 points over the 22-1 flurry.
Georgia would storm back and pulled within 56-49 on a Rayshaun Hammonds three-pointer at the 11:07 mark. The Bulldogs would get back to one possession at 62-60 with 3:18 remaining after a Tyree Crump jumper.
On the ensuing possession, Mississippi State responded behind Reggie Perry who canned two free throws after being fouled. Then, he split a pair of foul shots to bring the tally to 65-60 with 1:41 to go.
MSU took a 67-64 advantage after Weatherspoon connected on two free throws to bring his point total to 30 with 15.6 seconds on the clock.
After a timeout, Georgia answered with a Crump three-pointer to draw even at 67-67 with 9.1 ticks left. He utilized the pump fake to create space for the equalizer on the right wing.
That set the stage for Weatherspoon who took the inbounds pass across halfcourt. He got open courtesy of an Ado screen and was fouled on his jumper attempt. Weatherspoon knocked down the game-winner for his 31st point on the evening. It marked his second game-winner of the year and sixth of his career.
For the contest, MSU hit 25-of-51 shots from the field (49.0 percent), 7-of-17 shots from three-point range (41.2 percent) and 11-of-18 shots from the foul line (61.1 percent).
UGA countered with a 25-of-60 mark from the field (41.7 percent), a 9-of-25 mark from three-point range (36.0 percent) and an 8-of-11 mark from the foul line (72.7 percent).
Mississippi State had seven assists and 12 turnovers, while Georgia had 12 assists and nine turnovers.
UGA had five players tally in double figures headed by Jordan Harris (13 points) followed by Rayshaun Hammonds (12 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) and William Jackson II (11 points, 4 assists). Tyree Crump and Derek Ogbeide added 10 points apiece for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs return to the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum for back-to-back home games. First up is a rematch with South Carolina on Saturday. Tip time is on-tap for 5 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by SEC Network and available online through the WatchESPN platform.