A stuffed animal being thrown on the court gifted Mississippi State University (19-7, 7-6 SEC) a 68-67 win over the University of Georgia (10-16, 1-12 SEC), with just a half second left to go in Wednesday night's game.
Head coach Ben Howland said they were lucky to not drop the road game in a press release sent out by the MSU Athletic Department.
“I feel very fortunate to sneak out of here with a win tonight,” Howland said. “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).”
Georgia fought back from being down 42-25 with 18:31 left in the second half, to tying it with 10 seconds left to go in the game at 67-67. Howland said Georgia had clawed its way back into the game.
“They did a great job fighting back. One thing about (Georgia's head coach), Tom's (Crean) team is that they don't quit,” Howland said. “Those guys played incredibly hard, and we were very fortunate there at the end to not have to go to OT."
It was in those 10 seconds when MSU found a stroke of random luck to get out of Athens, Georgia, with a victory. Howland said he thought Quindary Weatherspoon, a senior guard from Canton, did a great job drawing a foul before the “thing” was ever thrown onto the court during his second free throw, resulting in a technical foul.
“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,” Howland said. “That was a huge play, someone throwing a little bulldog… That was crazy. He (Weatherspoon) made the first one.”
From there, Howland instructed Weatherspoon to miss the second free throw so the clock would run out, since there was half a second left in the game. Weatherspoon was in fact the biggest factor in the win as he lead the team with 31 points. Howland said he has been huge for the team because of his motivation.
“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,” Howland said. “I know he's very motivated to get into that tournament. We are 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."
The win means MSU shares sixth place in a three way tie in the SEC standings with Auburn and Florida. MSU will play the University of South Carolina at 5 p.m. Saturday.