MSU opens European tour with OT win

Quinndary Weatherspoon

Quinndary Weatherspoon

ROME, Italy – Sophomore slump? Apparently not.

After a solid rookie season that garnered him Freshman All-SEC honors, standout guard Quinndary Weatherspoon picked up where he left off Friday in propelling Mississippi State to a thrilling 88-83 overtime win against the Lithuania National Team in the first of four exhibition games in Italy and Switzerland.

The Canton product scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the second half and drained clutch free throws down the stretch to propel the Bulldogs to victory.

He was 9-of-22 shooting overall, with four of his made field goals coming beyond the arc.

“It was a success as we came out with a win,” said Weatherspoon, who logged 36 minutes of action. “I tried to lead by example with my 29 points. We made some mistakes, but everyone played with effort and did their part. I think we showed we have the talent to compete at a high level.”

Against the Moose, a majority of the talent came from first-year players, who accounted for 50 points.

Leading the scoring assault were 2016 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year Tyson Carter with 21 points on 8-13 shooting, followed by Owensboro, Kentucky, native Eli Wright with 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Carter, who starred at Starkville High School, was especially lethal beyond the arc, where he connected on 5 of his 8 attempts.

“With it being my first game, I wanted to come out strong,” Carter said. “I was a little slow at first, but I was able to pick up when I started finding my open shots.”

The Bulldogs, who now travel to Florence for a Monday night game against another Lithuanian team, trailed 19-11 early. However, MSU slowly chipped away at the Moose lead and went up 20-19 on a floater in the lane by Weatherspoon.

At the half, Mississippi State led 39-34 thanks to a Carter 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Bulldogs never trailed in the second frame, despite the absence of I.J. Ready, who suffered from heat exhaustion late in the first half after totaling five points. But with two seconds to play, Lithuania sent the game into overtime on a free throw by Mindaugas Kacinas, a former South Carolina player who totaled nine points against MSU back in March and finished with 25 Friday.

The Moose built as much as a 79-74 lead, but with 1:45 left Weatherspoon was fouled following steal and made one of this two free throws to even the contest at 80. Then it was another freshman, Joe Strugg, who gave MSU the lead for good at 82-80 with two free throws.

It was an advantage the Bulldogs never squandered, as Weatherspoon and Carter accounted for the final six points to preserve the victory.

“I’m glad we won the game,” MSU coach Ben Howland said. “They are well coached and it was a good test for our guys to see what it’s going to be like guarding a bunch of ball screens. We really have a long ways to go on both ends of the floor, starting with our defense.

“I thought Q (Weatherspoon) was fantastic, as you would expect. He’s our best player on the team and he really played tough for us. He brought us back late in the game and made some big plays down the stretch. He was just great all the way around. I thought Tyson Carter was really good as well.”

For the game, MSU was 32-of-67 shooting, 11-20 from long range. Lithuania was 27-67 and 14-39 beyond the arc.

(From MSU Media Relations)

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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