Thanks to the heroic performances from the Weatherspoon brothers, Mississippi State University’s men’s basketball disproved the critics’ doubts with an upset win over the No. 22 University of Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Bulldogs (13-1, 1-0 SEC) struggled heavily from the field, going 25-59 throughout the game, but were able to pull off the 78-75 victory due to their ability to get to the free-throw line. They reached the line 40 times, making 24 of those shots from the charity stripe. MSU was also able to protect the ball, only turning it over seven times.
Their success in reaching the line was complimented by their disciplined defense of the Razorbacks (11-2, 1-1 SEC) on the other end of the court. Arkansas only reached the free throw line 12 times, and MSU forced Arkansas to turn the ball over 13 times.
“We got to the foul line,” head coach Ben Howland said. “They pressure so much that when you are attacking the rim you have to get in there and play through contact.”
MSU was led by the dynamic brother duo Nick and Quinndary Weatherspoon, who both scored 22 points. No one else on MSU’s teams scored more than nine points.
After the game, Nick, a freshman from Canton, talked about the difference in chemistry between he and his brother in comparison to other teammates.
“I just give him a little eye contact, and he will know that if he comes off the screen I will go backdoor,” Nick said. “Like sometimes I don’t even have to talk to him, I can just give him a signal or hand to make for a lob. The chemistry we have, we don’t have to speak to each other sometimes.”
The two brothers closed out the game for MSU, something the Bulldogs have previously struggled with in tight games against ranked opponents. With MSU down 73-69, Nick pulled up for a three and swished it to cut the lead to one. Arkansas then made a jumper to go up 75-72. With one minute and 20 seconds left in game, Quinndary, a junior from Canton, made a three-pointer himself to tie the game. MSU would take the lead on, and Abdul Ado would lay-in and then reach the final score after a free throw.
Looking toward the post-season, the importance of this win for MSU’s resume cannot be overstated. Arkansas not only entered tonight ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll, but ranked fourth in RPI. To compare, MSU entered the night with an RPI of 74. MSU will want to pick up more big wins to get their RPI ranking up in the 20s in order to have a shot at the NCAA tournament.
Despite MSU’s 13-1 record, their low RPI ranking was due to their weak non-conference schedule, something Quinndary said they wanted to prove was not a fluke.
“We just wanted to disprove the critics,” Quinndary said. “A lot of people saying we did not play a tough enough schedule in non-conference. We just took it personally, and came out and tried to get a big win in the SEC.”
MSU’s rebounding was another consistent high point throughout the night, especially on the offensive end. MSU and Arkansas were tied for total rebounds with 39, but MSU grabbed 17 offensive rebounds compared to Arkansas’ 12. Ado led MSU with nine total rebounds, five of which were offensive. Quinndary also had five offensive rebounds, and seven in total.
MSU made good use of their extra possession throughout the game. They scored 16 points off of second chances after offensive rebounds and then scored 19 points off of turnovers.
“Coach Howland told us that they are not a great blocking out team,” Quinndary said. “So he was just preaching to us in the walk through and practice, that if we crash hard enough, the opportunities are there.”
MSU will be back in action on Saturday against arch-rival Ole Miss. They will travel to Oxford for a 3:30 tip-off. SEC Network will broadcast the game.