Peters powering Bulldogs through NIT

Published 7:57 am Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Quinndary Weatherspoon got to be the hero — again — for Mississippi State with his buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Baylor in the second round of the NIT.

The shot took one high bounce off the rim and gave the Bulldogs a 78-77 victory. MSU coach Ben Howland said he was “amazed” at Weatherspoon’s fourth career game-winning shot, but also impressed with the guy who got him the ball.

It was guard Lamar Peters who rushed the ball up the floor after Manu Lecomte had put Baylor ahead with 5.1 seconds left. Peters’ 10th and final assist of the game set up Weatherspoon perfectly for the game-winner.

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“Lamar made two big plays at the end of that game. One was the pass that was set up to go opposite (for a tying 3-pointer by Tyson Carter), and the last play was really exciting because he made the right read,” Howland said at a press conference Monday. “He didn’t panic and he didn’t get hurried. We had 5.1 seconds and he found Q right in a rhythm and he got a good look.”

Peters also set up Carter for a 3-pointer that tied the game at 75 with 34.8 seconds left. Peters finished with nine points and 10 assists. It was second straight double-digit assist game after he had none in a loss to Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Peters had 14 assists in a win over Nebraska in the first round of the NIT.

“It was something that everybody picked up on, but I had had no specific conversations with him about that,” Howland said of the way Peters has picked up his game in the NIT.

Now the Bulldogs (24-11) have a quick turnaround and will need another strong effort for the next round of the NIT. They’ll go on the road Tuesday night to play Louisville (22-13) in the quarterfinals, with a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York on the line.

Louisville beat Middle Tennessee 84-68 in another second-round game Sunday. A raucous crowd of 13,050 turned out for that one, with the entire arena doing the wave in the final moments as they cheered their Cardinals on to victory.

That sort of atmosphere, Howland said, will combine with the single day of rest to provide a difficult challenge. Mississippi State is just 5-9 away from Starkville this season, with two of those wins coming on neutral courts. MSU had a 19-2 record at Humphrey Coliseum.

“I wish there was an extra day in between. It’s always better to have more time to prepare,” Howland said. “But it is what it is. They have the same thing. The difference is, they get to play at home. They’ll have a great crowd and this will be a true road game.”

It will also be a tough matchup from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Baylor outrebounded the Bulldogs 34-21 overall on Sunday, and had 14 offensive rebounds. The offensive rebounds, Howland said, were what opened the door for the Bears to wipe out a 20-point deficit — and something the Bulldogs can ill afford to allow happen again.

Louisville ranked seventh in the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding, with 36.8 per game. Mississippi State is allowing 34 rebounds per game.

“We got hurt on the glass,” Howland said. “We’ve got to do a better job against a very good rebounding team in Louisville. We’re doing a good job defending the first shot, but then they’re getting a second shot and second shots are putbacks.”

• Mississippi State at Louisville
• Tuesday, 8 p.m., ESPN
• NIT, second round

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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