January 11, 2017 10:34:26 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The Mississippi State men's basketball team made more national news for its early season non-conference losses than most anything else in the first few months of the season.
Don't look now, but the youthful Bulldogs -- with only one senior -- might have figured things out after
early losses to Central Florida, Lehigh, and East Tennessee State.
Led by 25 points from sophomore Quinndary Weatherspoon, which was a new conference-game career high in points, Mississippi State won for the fifth time in six games with an 84-78 victory at Arkansas on Tuesday night. It's the first time the Bulldogs, who beat LSU on Saturday, have won back-to-back road conference games since 2011.
"That was a phenomenal win," said Mississippi State coach Ben Howland, whose team improved to 11-4 and 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference. "This is our best win of the year, to get a road win against a top-26 RPI team. It really bolsters our confidence, two hard wins in a row."
Weatherspoon set his career high with 27 points in a victory against Morehead State in December, and he nearly equaled that Tuesday -- shooting 8 of 11 from the field and hitting a career-best six 3-pointers.
Lamar Peters added 14 points, while Aric Holman had 13 points and 11 rebounds for MSU, which outrebounded Arkansas 41-29.
"I was feeling good in warmups," Weatherspoon said. "I hit a couple in a row, and I thought then it was going to be a good night, and my teammates got me open."
Moses Kingsley had a season-high 19 points to lead the Razorbacks (12-4, 1-3), who have lost back-to-back home games to open the conference season for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Dusty Hannahs added 17 points, Anton Beard had 11 and Jaylen Barford had 10.
The Razorbacks led by as many as seven points in the first half before falling behind 40-36 at halftime. They briefly tied the game early in the second half before the Bulldogs pulled back ahead and never looked back.
A layup by Peters stopped Arkansas' run. A 3-pointer by Weatherspoon gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 49-46 with 13 minutes, 11 seconds left.
The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 55-48. The Razorbacks cut the deficit to three, but the Bulldogs hit 10-straight made free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.
MSU was 25 of 55 from the field (45.5 percent), 12 of 26 from 3-point range (46.2), and 22 of 32 from the free-throw line (68.8). Arkansas was 28 of 59 from the field (47.5), 7 of 21 from 3-point range (33.3), and 15 of 23 from the free-throw line (65.2).
"Obviously disappointed with our performance tonight," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "... Weatherspoon, we had no answer for him."
The victory helped MSU snap a four-game losing streak in Fayetteville, and they did so largely thanks to their 3-point shooting. After hitting 11 of 22 3-pointers in a victory against LSU on Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, MSU -- the SEC's second-leading 3-point shooting team -- made 12 more Tuesday. Weatherspoon led the way by going 6 of 7 from behind the arc.
"I think we're maturing," said Howland, whose team has five wins in its last six games.
As the teams walked off the court for halftime, there was an altercation between Hannahs and MSU's Xavian Stapleton -- enough for the officials to blow their whistles from half court and Anderson to go running into the tunnel that leads under the seats. No fouls or technical were called.
MSU will play host to Texas A&M at noon Saturday (WCBI).