March 21, 2018 8:50:43 AM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds Tuesday night to lead the Mississippi State men's basketball team to a 79-56 victory against Louisville in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
The win pushed MSU (25-11) into the semifinals, where it will face Penn State (24-13), which defeated Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night, at 6 or 8:30 p.m. March 27 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"That was a phenomenal win," MSU coach Ben Howland said. "This is so exciting for our team. The way they came out here prepared. The way they prepared for this. Remember, we played Sunday, just like they did. They played Sunday night, we played Sunday morning. We had to travel, so to travel that much and show up with that kind of effort is really gratifying for me as their coach, and I can't say enough about our entire team. How hard they worked and prepared for this because we wanted to go to New York City and go to the (Madison Square) Garden badly and they displayed that in how they played today."
Lamar Peters opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and MSU led by at least nine points the rest of the way. Weatherspoon scored eight points during a 12-3 run to start the third for a 51-31 advantage and MSU cruised.
Aric Holman added 16 points and eight rebounds for MSU, which has won its most games since the 2009-10 season. Xavian Stapleton and Nick Weatherspoon added 12 points. Abdul Ado had three blocks to tie Jarvis Varnado for the most blocks by a MSU freshman with 67.
"It's a great feeling to come back home," said Holman, who is from Owensboro, Kentucky. Teammate Eli Wright also is from Owensboro. "My teammates helped me prepare and we also prepared really well for this game. We all came into this game very confident. And it just happy it went the way it went."
Howland praised Quinndary Weatherspoon for getting 14 rebounds in 26 minutes. He also complimented the work of Peters, who had four assists and one turnover in 31 minutes.
"Peters handled their pressure early really well, really distributed the ball, did a great job of taking that pressure off of us," Howland said. "He's hard to press. He's pretty quick. I thought we really shared the ball well, exceptionally tonight offensively. First quarter they only had 12 points, that's impressive defense and that's where it ends, defense. For us, we shot 47 percent, they only shot 35 percent. We won the battle of the boards, handled the pressure, only 11 turnovers, seven blocks. I was really excited for Aric Holman and Eli Wright to come back to their home state and win here in Louisville."
MSU shot 47-7 percent from the field (31-for-65) and had 14 assists and only 11 turnovers. The 8-for-21 (38.1 percent) from 3-point range. They won the battle of points in the paint 40-24.
"I'm just excited about how we passed the ball," Howland said. "There were a lot of extra passes tonight that were fantastic. Aric (Holman) was the recipient of a couple of them, and he made a couple great ones. To see where we started, and where we've come from in terms of making the extra pass, is just so exciting, because we really looked good tonight at both ends of the floor. This is one of our best games of the year and it's good to be playing that way at the end of the season. And this is going to really be positive for us to get another opportunity to play a postseason game against a very good Penn State team in New York City."
Ray Spalding paced Louisville (22-14) with 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double. The Cardinals shot 35 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 42-32.
"We just ran into a bus tonight," Louisville men's basketball coach David Padgett said. "That's a heck of a basketball team. They're the epitome of a team that's even more impressive in person after you watch them on film. That's a big-time basketball team. They're extremely athletic and very skilled at every position, shot the ball well, and we just couldn't find it offensively tonight.
"Nonetheless, this loss won't define this season. I've said it before and I'll say it until the day I die, the way these players conducted themselves on the court and off the court with all the external distractions we had to deal with has been nothing short of remarkable. I hope everybody, not only in this university and this program, but in this city and this state appreciates that because everybody in this room has been a college kid at one point and it's easy to not handle yourself in the right way, and these guys have done that day in and day out. I will love these guys until the day I die."
The winners of the games tonight between Western Kentucky and Oklahoma State and Utah and Saint Mary's will play in the other semifinal.
Former MSU men's basketball coach Rick Stansbury is the coach at Western Kentucky.
n Penn State 85, Marquette 80: At Milwaukee, Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.
Penn State advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.
Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey's missed 3 with 46 seconds left.
Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3-pointer and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.
Shep Garner scored 19 points and set two Penn State records, including most 3s in a season (112). Garner's 73 career wins are the most in a four-year span since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1992-93.
Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).
The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3-pointers to get back in the game.