What a game. Mississippi State traveled to New Jersey to play in the Never Forget Tribute Classic against Clemson. Clemson started the season ranked 22 in the country. After two consecutive losses to Creighton and Nebraska, Clemson dropped out of the top-25. Mississippi State came into the game ranked 22 with hopes to leave the New Jersey Nets’ former arena with a victory over a quality opponent.
Abdul Ado won the tip-off, Aric Holman caught the ball, and gave it to Lamar Peters. Peters scanned the floor and kicked it to Holman in the corner and he buried the 3. Four possessions later, Holman was 3/3 from deep and the Bulldogs were up 11-2 to start the game. Clemson scored on continuous possessions and cut the lead to 11-8; that’s the closest the Tigers ever got to taking the lead or tying the game the rest of the way.
For the first time this season, MSU came out of the gates strong and looked like the nationally ranked team that they are. The Bulldogs broke the single-game school record for made 3’s in a game with 19. Not only did they make 19 3’s, those makes came from only four different players: Peters, Holman, Quinndary Weatherspoon, and Tyson Carter. The largest lead of the game was 38-19 with about 4:00 left in the first half. Clemson started to make a run late in the half, and were only down by 8 going into the locker room. At this point, it looked like the Tigers were starting to form a comeback. Clemson started with the ball in the second half to continue their run. Peters responded by stealing the ball, taking it down the court, and draining a step-back 3 to keep a mostly comfortable lead.
In the second half, Mississippi State kept pouring 3’s on Clemson but the Tigers never gave up. On two different occasions, Clemson got within 5 points, but MSU responded both times by stretching the lead back out. The Bulldogs left the arena with a huge 82-71 victory over a team that will likely be in the NCAA Tournament.
Like always, negative takeaways come first. Mississippi State gave up a total of 38 points in the paint. If someone is going to beat MSU, attacking the interior defense is how they are going to do it. We won’t shoot 63.3% from 3 every night, so if the Bulldogs are going to win big this season, they need to find a way to solidify the defense down low. Nick Weatherspoon finished with only 2 points and they came from the free throw line. This is unlike him. Expect him to quickly bounce back in the next few games.
Lamar Peters highlights the positives by setting another career-high in points with 28 by shooting 8/11 (72.7%) from deep. Peters has 55 points in his last two outings and has shot 16/24 from 3. What makes Peters such a great player is his versatility. He can finish a game with 0 points, but have 12 assists. Or he can light it up from 3 and lead the team in scoring. Q added another 20-point game to his résumé by making 4 of his 7 3 point attempts. All of Holman’s 16 points came from 3 except one which came from the free throw line. Tyson Carter contributed 8 points off the bench and kept the barrage of 3’s going by sinking 2 from deep. Once this team figures out how to play at this level consistently, there won’t be many teams that will be able to slow them down.
The biggest games of Mississippi State’s non-conference schedule are Dayton, Clemson, and Cincinnati; the Bulldogs have won the first two, and Cincinnati is up next. Cincinnati is 9-1 and coming off a 15 point victory over Xavier. Cincinnati’s only loss is against Ohio State, who is currently the number 19 team in the country. This will be one of the biggest home games of the season and Mississippi State is coming back to Starkville with a lot of momentum.