On Saturday, with a weekend filled with "Black Panther" fever at the box office and the showcase of skills at NBA All-Star Weekend, Starkville shined as the Mississippi State University men's basketball dominated their rivals, the Ole Miss Rebels (11-16, 4-10), for a well-deserved victory, with the final score being 79-62.
The Bulldogs (19-8, 7-7 SEC) put on a shooting clinic Saturday night, going 33-55 from the field, and 12-23 from behind the arch, making this the best shooting performance from the Bulldogs this season. With four players scoring in double digits, MSU did not want to give an inch of let-up to allow the Rebels a chance to win the game.
Tyson Carter, a sophomore from Starkville, put up 15 points and knocked down four threes in the game.
“My teammates were just finding me open spots,” Carter said.
Quinndary Weatherspoon, a junior from Canton, was the Bulldogs' top performer, putting up a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, as well as having three steals and two assists. He said the team is focusing on a game-to-game basis.
“I mean, we look at as a must win, but we’re just taking it game-by-game,” Weatherspoon said. “We not looking past the next game. We have South Carolina next week, but we got Texas A&M before them. So, we’re just taking it game-by-game. We just going to try to win out.”
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, who announced earlier this week he is leaving Ole Miss after this season, explained how hard it was to defend the Bulldogs when they were firing on all cylinders.
“It’s difficult to watch, man,” Kennedy said. “I think Ben (Howland) has got them to play really, really well.”
He also pointed out how well they were shooting from deep on Saturday compared to how they have been averaging the whole season.
“One thing they had not been doing over the course of the season is making threes,” Kennedy said. “Now they are making threes.”
MSU head coach Ben Howland mentioned how astonished he was regarding the play from freshman guard Nick Weatherspoon, who was perfect from the field going seven for seven with 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“Nick Weatherspoon, what can I say,” Howland said. “Seven for seven, and the most amazing thing about Nick, to me, offensively, is that he never turns the ball over.”
He singled out how Nick Weatherspoon did not have a single turnover in Saturday’s match-up.
“I am stunned by his assist and turnovers for a freshman guard,” Howland said. “It’s really spectacular how he never turns the ball over.”
Howland was asked about forward Aric Holman, who left the game in the first half after falling hard onto the court, explaining what Holman told him about the injury.
“You know, he lands on one leg, his right leg, but it’s actually his left, the one that slams down after, is the one that’s hurt,” Howland said. “And if he would’ve told me it was the right knee, I would’ve said, ‘Yeah I can see that.’ It’s not even the knee. So, I’ll be praying nonstop that he’s going to be okay.”
Breein Tyree, who was Ole Miss’ top player in the game with 15 points, 2 assists, a steal and a block, was asked about how differently the Bulldogs looked in this meeting than in the last time the two teams played in Oxford, where Ole Miss took a 64-58 victory.
“I saw a lot more passion and togetherness in the Mississippi State team,” Tyree said. “The last time they played us at home, they were arguing with each other a lot. But tonight, they played together, and they were moving the ball, and you got to give credit to them.”
The Bulldogs have now won four out of their last six games, and they hope to keep this dynamic play up going into tournament time. With efficient scoring and great offensive consistency from players such as Carter and the Weatherspoon brothers, as well as the dominant paint presence of Abdul Ado to give them a defensive edge, this Bulldog team might be on track to make an appearance into the NCAA Tournament in March. And not to be forgotten, floor general Lamar Peters and Xavian Stapleton will more than likely be the team’s X-factors by how well Peters can play the floor, as he did by having seven assists on Saturday, and how nicely Stapleton can find shots.
To put it simply, the Lady Bulldogs might not be the only basketball team from MSU going to a national tournament this year.
The Bulldogs' next game is against Texas A&M at p.m. Tuesday. The SEC Network will broadcast the game.
The next home game for the Bulldogs will be Feb. 24, as the men’s basketball team will host the visiting South Carolina Gamecocks.