Mississippi State 80, Stephen F. Austin 75, men's college basketball final

Staff Writer

When Mississippi State counts its blessings on Thanksgiving, the Bulldogs will most certainly have their local star near the top of the list.

Former Starkville High School standout Tyson Carter scored a career-best 25 points with 19 coming in the second half to lead MSU to an 80-75 victory over previously unbeaten Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday night. Carter’s big night helped the Bulldogs overcome a 40-32 halftime deficit to improve to 4-0 this season.

“I thought that Tyson’s play, especially in the second half, really spearheaded our ability to get the lead,” MSU head coach Ben Howland said. “He did a great job of just putting his head down and saying, “OK, no one is going to help (guard) me,’ so he’s just driving at them and driving at them. He finished in multiple ways. He made a great pass.

“Tyson was really, really good.”

Prior to Wednesday, Carter’s previous best game was a 22-point showing against South Carolina last season. On that day, most of Carter’s damage was done behind the 3-point line as he made five treys.

Carter showed a different side of his game on Wednesday. He was just 1-of-6 from 3-point range, but found success by taking advantage of a Stephen F. Austin squad that was spread out. With the Lumberjacks leaving lanes open, Carter drove to the basket and finished at the rim, and also drew fouls and went 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.

“When you get labeled as a shooter, other teams try to run you off the 3-point line and that opens up the drive,” Carter said of his performance. “(Stephen F. Austin) was pressuring out real far, so that opened up driving lanes all over the court.”

Carter’s big second half showing coincided with a better overall effort by the Bulldogs than what the team displayed in the first half.

MSU had 10 turnovers in the game’s first 15 minutes and ended the first half with 11. State also allowed the Lumberjacks to shoot 41.7 percent from the field prior to the intermission.

Things changed after the break. Stephen F. Austin shot just 32.3 percent in the second half and MSU turned the basketball over only eight times.

With better all-around play and Carter shining, MSU was able to win its fourth straight game to start a season for the first time since winning the first five games of the 2014-15 campaign.

Though Carter was the spark for it all, he had plenty of help. Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 20 points. Nick Weatherspoon added 15. Aric Holman tallied 10 points.

Making MSU’s showing more impressive was the Bulldogs pulled out the win despite not having two of its regulars available. Xavian Stapleton missed his third straight game as he recovers from a sprained ACL in his knee. Lamar Peters also didn’t play due to a violation of team rules.

Howland hopes to have Stapleton back in the mix when MSU plays its next game against Jacksonville State on Sunday at 2 p.m. Howland said it remains to be seen if Peters will return to the floor by Sunday.