STARKVILLE-- Guard Quinndary Weatherspoon hit a layup plus a free throw with three seconds left in the game to help the Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-3 1-2 SEC) beat the Florida Gators 71-68 on Tuesday night. The loss was the Gators second straight, both against conference ranked opponents.
Each team hit their first shot of the game, with Florida guard KeVaughn Allen getting the scoring started by hitting a jumper followed by a slam by Mississippi State forward Abdul Ado. But those baskets were the only points scored in nearly the first two minutes of the game.
With the score tied at two, the Bulldogs, who entered the game with four players averaging double digits in points, scored the next seven points of the game. The 7-0 run included five points from guard Lamar Peters.
A three pointer by Gators guard Andrew Nembhard put an end to the Bulldogs run. And after a couple of free throws by Bulldogs forward Reggie Perry, Allen, who led all players with 17 points, drained a three pointer to make the score 11-8.
Over the next five minutes of play, the Gators (9-7 1-3 SEC) got four points from Forward Dontay Bassett, plus three pointers from guards Jalen Hudson & Deaundrae Ballard to tie the score at 18 with a little over 9 minutes left in the first half.
The two teams traded baskets up until the game approached the six minute mark of the first half. That's when the Gators took their first lead of the game when Locke scored on an "old school" three pointer that appeared to be a travel but was not called. Locke followed those three points with a short jumper to make the score 26-23. But that lead for the Gators was short-lived because in exactly two minutes the Bulldogs got 11 straight points from Peters.
After the one man run by Peters, the Gators trailed by eight. But in the last three minutes of the half, the Gators went on an 8-2 to run to close out the first twenty minutes of the game trailing 36-34.
While Florida shot only 38% in the first half, Mississippi State shot 60% from the three point line. But it was the Gators who made two three pointers in the first two minutes of the second half when Locke & forward Keyontae Johnson drilled shots behind the line.
Those baskets made the score 42-38. And because the Bulldogs scored just four points in the first four minutes of the second half, the Gators had a chance to increase their lead. But after a dunk by center Kevarrius Hayes, the Gators missed six straight shots.
A layup by Nembhard ended the Gators four minute drought & tied the score at 47. Two free throws by Allen & another basket by Nembhard made the score 51-47. But six consecutive points on two straight three pointers by guard Tyson Carter gave the Bulldogs a two point lead. A jump shot by Nembhard tied the score at 53 & the lead changes continued until the Gators grabbed a three point lead on a dunk by Johnson.
With the score 61-58, the Bulldogs tied the game again on a three pointer from guard Nick Weatherspoon but the Gators lead went back to five after two free throws & a three pointer by Allen.
Trailing 66-61 with under three minutes left, the Bulldogs went on their own 5-0. First the Bulldogs got a three pointer from forward Aric Holman, then on the next possession Weatherspoon hit a layup to tie the score again. And with less than 30 seconds left in the game, Weatherspoon fed Holman to give the Bulldogs a two point lead. But on the next possession, after a blocked shot, the Gators got the ball back & Locke was able to hit a short jumper in the lane to tie the score again, setting up Weatherspoon's old-fashioned three pointer to win it.
Florida, having suffered two of their three conference losses by a combined five points, will look to rebound on Saturday at noon when they travel to Georgia to take in the Bulldogs.