MSU men get nice bounce back victory

Aric Holman
Staff Writer

It appears this year’s Mississippi State Bulldogs are fast learners.

Coming off the team’s first loss of the season on Tuesday at Cincinnati, MSU head coach Ben Howland was hopeful that on Saturday night against UT Martin, his squad could learn from the mistakes that plagued it earlier in the week. Howland got his wish.

The Bulldogs used a big second half to pull away and defeat the Skyhawks 92-61. It was a victory that came for MSU, in part, because Howland said his team didn’t repeat the errors that hurt it at Cincinnati.

“We did a much better job in this game against the zone moving the ball and being a lot more patient,” Howland said. “It was a good win for us.”

The Bulldogs (9-1) shared the basketball the way Howland likes as they had a season-best 21 assists as a team. That led to big nights for several MSU players.

Quinndary Weatherspoon and Aric Holman scored 21 points each. That set a new career high for Holman.

Nick Weatherspoon added 11 points.

Holman ended up with a double-double in the contest as he also totaled 12 rebounds. Quinndary Weatherspoon just missed out on a triple-double. He finished with eight rebounds and seven assists to go along with his 21 points.

Much of MSU’s damage came after halftime as it poured on against UT Martin (3-8)

The Bulldogs led just 39-33 at the intermission, but outscored the Skyhawks 53-28 after the break.

MSU’s surge was spearheaded by its defense. The Bulldogs limited the Skyhawks to just 33.3 percent shooting in the second half.

“We just had to come out and play hard on defense,” Quinndary Weatherspoon said. “We had a lot of breakdowns in the first half on the defensive end. We came in at halftime and (Howland) told us that we need to tighten it up on defense and I thought we did a good job of that.”

It didn’t hurt that MSU’s bench also saw a reversal of its fortune from earlier in the week. After not scoring a point at Cincinnati, State's reserves contributed a total of 31 points on Saturday.

Lamar Peters, Eli Wright and Xavian Stapleton all had nine points each.

Peters had the biggest turnaround of all. He was 0-for-11 from the field at Cincinnati. The sophomore guard made three of his seven 3-point attempts on Saturday.

“I was really happy for (Peters),” Howland said. “We expect that.

“I thought our entire bench was very good in terms of coming in and giving us a lift with our defense and also scoring.”

MSU also used its best rebounding performance of the season. The Bulldogs hauled in a total of 53 boards, including 22 offensive rebounds which led to 31 second-chance points.

“I was really pleased with our rebounding,” Howland said.

All told, Saturday was just what MSU was hoping for. The Bulldogs weren’t pleased with how they lost Tuesday at Cincinnati, but State displayed on Saturday it is capable of learning and bouncing back strong.

“We just looked at (the Cincinnati game) as one where we took the loss and just had to move on,” Quinndary Weatherspoon said. “We put that game behind us and wanted to come out and do better than we did when we played Cincinnati.”