Mississippi State’s Lamar Peters drives to the basket for two of his 10 points Tuesday night in an 80-62 victory against Vanderbilt at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
January 17, 2018 9:39:37 AM
STARKVILLE -- The numbers tell you to play zone against the Mississippi State men's basketball team.
MSU's 29.7-percent mark from 3-point range entering its game against Vanderbilt on Tuesday was last in the Southeastern Conference and 336th out of 351 teams nationally.
Vanderbilt obliged and started the game in a zone. By the final minute of the first half, MSU led by double digits and had forced Vanderbilt to abandon the strategy.
After going 3-for-13 from 3-point range in the first half, MSU went 5-for-7 in the second to pull away and beat Vanderbilt 80-62 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Quinndary Weatherspoon led MSU (14-4, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) with 19 points, while Aric Holman had 18 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for his fourth double-double. Lamar Peters added 10 points to help the Bulldogs snap a three-game losing streak.
"I think our guys are learning," MSU coach Ben Howland said. "We watched a lot of film (Monday). We gave them Sunday off. We watched 45 minutes of film and took it away from practice time because we're learning."
MSU started 1-for-10 from 3-point range, but it hit 7 of 10 from distance to finish at 40 percent. Weatherspoon had his only 3-pointer in the second half when he scored 11 of his points. Xavian Stapleton had two treys and Holman and Peters also had 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes.
Former Starkville High School standout Tyson Carter (nine points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals) had both of his 3-pointers in the first half.
In all, MSU's 8-for-20 effort from 3-point range was its third-highest shooting percentage of the season.
MSU also had 20 assists to eclipse its previous high of 13 in a SEC game. It was the third time this season the Bulldogs handed out 20 or more assists in a game. As a result, MSU shot 48.4 percent from the field (31-for-64), its highest percentage since it shot 62 percent from the field in a 109-81 victory against North Florida on Dec. 30, 2017.
MSU's ball movement played a role in forcing Vanderbilt (6-12, 1-5) out of the zone. The Bulldogs also committed a season-low four turnovers.
MSU used its passing to turn a one-point lead with 6 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half into a 12-point advantage at halftime. The Bulldogs did it against a zone that has given them fits more than once.
"We weren't as fast. They're just more athletic than us. They move their feet quicker," Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. "We couldn't turn them over."
Said Howland, "I thought we did a better job of not trying to do it by myself but sharing it, and I thought that showed in the assists."
After busting the zone and moving the ball, MSU also showed growth in closing the game. MSU led Ole Miss by six points and Auburn by 11 at halftime before letting the games slip away. In the second half Tuesday, Vanderbilt cut a 12-point halftime lead to seven in the first minute. It also cut MSU's lead to five with less than 12 minutes remaining.
"I just felt like we gave up too many baskets coming out in the first five minutes in the second half, but I was glad me and Aric were able to get a couple of baskets to try to keep our team going," Weatherspoon said.
Holman also had two assists and two blocked shots. He said the team knows getting the ball into the interior against a zone is one of Howland's biggest priorities. Against the Commodores, that meant Holman touched the ball on nearly every possession. He capitalized going 7-for-10 from the field.
"We got it to him inside, and for us to be victorious with Abdul (Ado) in foul trouble was huge," Howland said.
MSU won largely without freshman guard Nick Weatherspoon. Howland said Weatherspoon's foot was bothering him in pre-game shootaround and the pain forced him to see a doctor at halftime. Howland limited him to eight minutes in the second half. Howland said Weatherspoon will undergo a precautionary MRI before the game at Alabama on Saturday.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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