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Strong start leads MSU to rout of Ole Miss


Mississippi State’s Nick Weatherspoon (0) works against the defense of Ole Miss’ Deandre Burnett (1).

Mississippi State’s Nick Weatherspoon (0) works against the defense of Ole Miss’ Deandre Burnett (1). Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch






Special to The Dispatch 


STARKVILLE - Mississippi State shot better made more than half its 3-pointers for the second straight game and sunk rival Ole Miss, 79-62, Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum. 


Quinndary Weatherspoon went 3 of 6 from 3 and finished with a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Tyson Carter hit 4 of 7 3s and finished with 15. 


Nick Weatherspoon made his only 3 and went 7 of 7 from the floor and finished with 15 points. 


The Bulldogs snapped a two-game skid and four-game losing streak to the Rebels. MSU shot 55 percent from the floor and cleared 50 percent for the fifth time in seven games. 


"It's great to get over the hump against [Ole Miss]," Quinndary Weatherspoon said. 


The Bulldogs (19-8, 7-7 Southeastern Conference) entered the game ranked last in the league in 3-point percentage. But MSU is finding its shot at the right time; MSU went 10 of 17 in a midweek loss at Vanderbilt and have shot 35 percent or better in five of their last seven games, a markedly better stretch in league play compared to State's first seven games, when they averaged just 25 percent. That stretch included a 5 of 23 clip in MSU's loss at Ole Miss in early January. 


"Guys have been getting up more shots," said MSU forward Xavian Stapleton, who hit a pair of 3s and finished with 10 points. "Coach [Ben Howland] has put an emphasis on taking more shots. Maybe that's it, or maybe it's the flow of the game. I really don't know, but I'm happy with it." 


Four different Mississippi State players contributed to MSU's 5-for-5 burst of 3-pointers in the first half, which helped the Bulldogs race out to an 18-6 lead. State, which struggled from the perimeter against zone defense early in league play, did its damage against Ole Miss' 2-3 zone. 


"That's how I expect us to shoot," Howland said. 


Howland said the Bulldogs practiced exclusively against zone defense their last two practices, including a heavy dose of it earlier Saturday. 


"We went live for an hour today, defending [Ole Miss] stuff for 35 minutes," Howland said. "We went live against zone for 25 minutes. Our guys handled the 1-3-1, 1-3-1 trap, the 3-2, the 2-3 - there's a lot of different looks they throw at you, and you have to execute against all of it. We did a great job tonight." 


The Bulldogs re-ignited its stingy man-defense after giving up 80 points in back-to-back road losses at Missouri and Vanderbilt, where both opponents shot 46 and 52 percent from 3, respectively. MSU held the Rebels to 27 percent shooting the first half and limited Ole Miss' top-two scorers, Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis to a combined two points. 


"With Q, he get s a double-double, but he plays great defense," Howland said. "Davis was 0 for 7 in the first and that was Q's guy. It was huge for us." 


MSU pushed the lead to 20 after a Lamar Peters steal and Quinndary Weatherspoon layup midway through the second half and kept the lead in double-digits the rest of the way. 


Ole Miss (11-16, 4-10) has lost six straight games, and Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said the early-week announcement that he'll resign at the end of the year didn't motivate his team the way he hoped it would. 


"It's difficult to watch when you know how hard it's been to build [the program]," Kennedy said. "I tell my guys, sports is like climbing a mountain, and every step up, you have to be aware and calculated, but you have to hold on tight, and you better not let go, or you'll plummet to the bottom. We've seemed to let go." 


Aric Holman left the game shortly before halftime after injuring his left knee. Holman did not return to the game. Howland said Holman, MSU's second leading scorer, will have an MRI sometime Sunday. 


Breein Tyree led the Rebels with 15 points.



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