Yesterday morning, College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein said, “Tonight’s game between Cincinnati and Mississippi State is the equivalent of a 4 seed meeting a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. Someone is waking up tomorrow with a Quad[rant] 1 win.” And the game was just as exciting as a Round of 32 game. Last year, Mississippi State traveled up to Cincinnati, Ohio to face the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bulldogs lost by 15 a year ago, but the Bulldogs will be the ones waking up with a quadrant 1 win. The game started with a defensive stop by the Bulldogs and a 3 by Nick Weatherspoon assisted from Lamar Peters.
This was a hard-nose, grind-it-out type of game, and it was fun to watch. Cincinnati came out of the gates with a full-court press and stuck with that for most of the game. Both teams got in early foul trouble. Abdul Ado even got a flagrant 1 foul in the first 8 minutes of the game. Reggie Perry came off the bench and had an incredible game, making play after play. Each team would score back and forth and no one could get a large lead. The largest lead of the first half was 37-30 with 1:00 left in the half. Cincinnati scored before going into the locker room to make the game 37-32.
Cincinnati came back from half and tied the game at 43, but couldn’t find a way to get the lead. Over the course of the game, Cincinnati only lead the game for 2 minutes and 5 seconds. After the game was tied at 43, the Bulldogs had a 7-0 that was all too much for the Bearcats to overcome. Cincinnati got within 4 to get back in the game, but Lamar Peters kept the comfortable lead by draining a 3 in the corner right in front of the MSU bench. Mississippi State defeated Cincinnati 70-52 after 4 different Bulldogs scored 12+ points.
Like always, the negatives come first. The Bulldogs had season-high’s in both turnovers and fouls committed. It’s very unlike MSU to foul so much and turn the ball over numerous times. Mississippi State also had a season-low in free throw percentage. The Bulldogs’ season average is 76.8%, and tonight, they shot 60.9% from the line. This is also very uncharacteristic for the team. I feel repetitive when I always say that the interior defense was the issue, but that wasn’t the case this game. The defense down low held together for the better part of the game. Hopefully this can carry over into the games following tonight.
Now the positives. The biggest one is getting this victory. MSU’s biggest non-conference games were against Clemson and Cincinnati, and Mississippi State beat them both by a total margin of 22 points. Both Cincinnati and Clemson are likely to go to the NCAA Tournament, and your Bulldogs beat both of them. Lamar Peters didn’t have another career-high scoring night or tie the school record for made 3’s in the game, but he did finish with 14 points and 9 assists. Reggie Perry coming off the bench in the game was the biggest difference maker. He stepped up when we needed points off the bench, scoring 12. Quinndary Weatherspoon was a perfect 3/3 from deep and tied Peters for the team lead in scoring with 14. The team made 52.2% of their 3’s taken after shooting 12/23. This team is red-hot shooting the ball and any team in the country would be afraid to play this team the way they are shooting right now.
Looking ahead, Mississippi State closes the non-conference schedule with home games against Wofford, Wright State, and BYU then open conference play with a road trip to South Carolina. If the Bulldogs can keep the winning streak going into conference play, they’ll likely be ranked just outside the top 10 when they travel to Columbia. Mississippi State may have just punched their ticket to March Madness after handling Cincinnati, but the Dawgs have to stay strong through conference play to go to The Dance.
- Mississippi State has made 31 3’s in the last 2 games, the 2 biggest games of the season so far
- In the past 3 games, Mississippi State is shooting 53.6% from 3