The stage was set when two teams met in Humphrey Coliseum for an important game, one which could decide if No. 16 Tennessee (22-7,12-5 SEC) would still have a shot at the SEC title, or if Mississippi State University (21-9, 9-8 SEC) could reach the NCAA tournament.
Ben Howland felt his team had good chances in the first half, but had too many fouls costing them going into the second half.
“We had some great opportunities in the first half, we had the lead 20-13,” Howland said. “And we got sped up from the excitement from the game. I thought in the first half they did a good job of getting us into foul trouble.”
Howland said there were not a lot of 50-50 plays which flipped in favor of Tennessee in the first half. MSU had a 25-17 lead with 9:25 left in the first half, but started to struggle scoring offensively.
“I did not think so in the first half at all, I thought we really battled and we looked really good,” Howland said. “They switched ball screens and we were too content with pulling up and shooting jump shots. From that point forward, we struggled offensively.”
MSU was unable to keep Tennessee contained in the beginning of the second half, and Quinndary Weatherspoon, a junior guard from Canton, said this was the difference from the first half of the game. Weatherspoon led MSU with 17 points on 53 percent field goal shooting.
“We just had a lot of breakdowns on defense in the second half, unlike what we did the first five to 10 minutes of the ball game,” Quinndary Weatherspoon said. “I do not know what happened, just we had a lot of breaks down defensively.”
Tennessee’s offense was red hot throughout the game, especially in the second half. They shot 68.2 percent from the field in the second half, and Nick Weatherspoon, a freshman guard from Canton, said this is what gave Tennessee the edge in the second half.
“They were the only ones making shots, they were not doing anything special,” Nick Weatherspoon said. “They were making shots, getting out on transition and being patient. Making us waiting on defense.”
MSU ended the game shooting 39.2 percent as they shot 29.6 percent in the second half, and they lost their final home game and any hope for the NCAA Tournament, losing 76-54. Despite the loss, Nick Weatherspoon said it will not discourage the team.
“It will be very tough for us to get in, but we are not going to give up,” Nick Weatherspoon said. “We are going to go on the road and try to get a win against LSU and make a run in the SEC tournament.”
Howland said after the defeat today, all the team can really do is bounce back against LSU on the road. The team blew a chance to beat a good team at home, which could have helped their NCAA Tournament chances.
“It is a tough lesson and we have to bounce back, there is no choice. It is a bitter defeat at home and a chance to beat a good team on your home floor,” Howland said. “You learn by watching film, you learn by everybody looking inward and what we could do better.”
MSU will take on LSU Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Tip-off is set for 12 p.m. and the SEC Network will broadcast the game.