January 16, 2019 10:37:04 AM
STARKVILLE -- Quinndary Weatherspoon felt like something had been missing in his last few games.
As one of the leaders on the Mississippi State men's basketball team, Weatherspoon's concerns played a role in MSU dropping its first two Southeastern Conference games.
With a potential third-straight league setback staring the Bulldogs in the face, Weatherspoon found the precision and accuracy that had been missing.
Weatherspoon scored on a layup and converted the three-point play with 3.6 seconds remaining Tuesday night to lead No. 24 MSU to a 71-68 victory against Florida in a SEC game before a crowd of 7,501 at Humphrey Coliseum.
"Me and Lamar (Peters) were supposed to go back and forth and the last person to touch that ball was supposed to drive all the way," said Weatherspoon, who was fouled by Kevarrius Hayes. "Lamar broke the play off and ended up getting out the way. It left me with a wide open lane for the layup."
Weatherspoon, who recorded his fifth game-winner for the Bulldogs, scored five of his nine points in the final 1 minute, 25 seconds to lift MSU to 13-3 and 1-2 in the league.
Peters paced the Bulldogs with 16 points (all in the first half) and six assists. Tyson Carter added 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range. Aric Holman added 10 points and three assists off the bench.
Former Columbus High School and two-time Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year Robert Woodard II had three points, four rebounds, three assists, and three steals in 20 minutes in his first start.
The win helped MSU bounce back from losses to South Carolina and Ole Miss in its first two SEC games.
The game came down to the final seconds after MSU's Nick Weatherspoon collected a loose ball and tried to help the Bulldogs keep possession by passing it to Holman underneath his team's basket. But Noah Locke stole the ball and scored with 10.2 seconds left to tie it at 68.
On the game-winner, MSU coach Ben Howland relied on the ability of Peters and Quinndary Weatherspoon to break down defenders. Peters had five assists in the second half to set the stage for the Bulldogs' come-from-behind victory.
Peters facilitated an 11-0 run late in the first half while playing tough defense. Woodard II also played well defensively against forward Jalen Hudson.
"He did a really good job defensively," Howland said of Peters. "(Having a) 2:1 against assist-turnover ratio against that floor and that press. I thought his floor game tremendous tonight."
The game featured 11 lead changes and 12 ties. MSU stayed in the game thanks to a 10-for-17 effort from 3-point range. That shooting performance contributed to the Bulldogs' 53.1-percent shooting from the field (26-for-49).
"There were obviously huge plays down the stretch," Howland said. "Going back to Nick's (Weatherspoon) three -- the really nice drive by Lamar. He dished it off of two feet when we spread the floor for him to hit (Quinndary Weatherspoon) to tie the game ... And then the last play, we knew that with nine seconds to go, we wanted to attack the rim and Lamar (Peters) did a good job of just giving the ball up to Q. Q did exactly what he was told to do -- go all the way to the rim and finish. I thought he made a lot of nice passes tonight, Q did."
KeVaughn Allen led Florida (9-7, 1-3) with 17 points. Andrew Nembhard (13) points, Locke (12), and Keyontae Johnson (11) also scored in double figures.
"Our tempo press was effective for 39-and-a-half minutes, but it wasn't effective at the end of the game," Florida coach Mike White said. "We rotated a little bit late. He finished. He's a really good player and made a good play."
MSU will take on Vanderbilt at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network) in Nashville, Tennessee. Four of the team's next five SEC games will be on the road. But with Weatherspoon on call, MSU has the confidence to stay back on track.
"I just do whatever to help my team win," Weatherspoon said. "It doesn't really matter what time of the game it is. Five minutes or last few seconds, whatever I can do, I'm going to try and do it."
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