Liberty knocks Mississippi State out of NCAA Tournament
Photo courtesy of Kelly Donoho/MSU Athletics

Mississippi State was sent out West for their first-round matchup with Liberty, and a late run by the Flames ended MSU’s time in the NCAA Tournament. Supertalk Mississippi’s Brian Hadad was in San Jose, and below, you’ll find his breakdown of the game.

Story by SportsTalk Mississippi’s MSU Beat Reporter Brian Hadad 

From the moment Mississippi State’s name popped up to take on Liberty in the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs appeared to be a trendy pick to fall victim to the infamous 5-12 upset. The national experts were right on the money, as the Bulldogs gave away a ten point lead in the second half to fall to the Flames 80-76, ending their season at 23-11. The Bulldogs got out ahead on big nights from Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters, who combined for 48 points, but both guards picked up their fourth fouls within 60 seconds of one another, a situation that Peters admit turned the Bulldogs timid in the game’s final moments, allowing Liberty to overcome that deficit and get their program’s first win in the NCAA Tournament.

CAN’T CLOSE OUT

With 7:18 left in the game, Lamar Peters hit a layup to cap a 10-0 run that pushed MSU’s lead to 63-53. At 6:58, he fouled Liberty’s Caleb Homesley on a three point attempt, and the Flames sharpshooter converted all three. A minute later, he would commit his fourth foul, and then Quinndary Weatherspoon would do the same 21 seconds after. That 2 minute span effectively turned the game around, as Liberty would get control and regain the lead on a 19-7 run, a margin they would not relinquish after getting up 72-70. Peters said it in that video and would repeat himself on the dais, the Bulldogs went timid with their leading scorers in foul trouble, and none of the other players in maroon and white would step up to fill their void.

END OF THE ROAD

It was one heck of a career for Quinndary Weatherspoon and Aric Holman, coming in to execute a total rebuild of a program that was at the bottom of the SEC. It’s certainly disappointing to see your season end like this, but the seniors can leave with their heads held high, knowing they were able to pull the team back into postseason play. Weatherspoon, who leaves Starkville as the school’s third all-time leading scorer, will be especially well-remembered and equally difficult to replace.

WHAT’S NEXT?

It is a bit early to look ahead to next season, but the Bulldogs should be strong again, assuming that Lamar Peters returns to his role as point guard. Tyson Carter should provide his touch from the outside, and both freshmen Robert Woodard and Reggie Perry showed they have potential All-SEC talent. The big news of the offseason will be whether or not Nick Weatherspoon can return to this squad. If he can, I would think the Bulldogs could be a tournament team once again, if either he or Peters move on, then it will fall on the rising sophomores to carry this team back into the postseason.