ST. LOUIS, Mo. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – A gutsy, inspired effort by the Mississippi State fell short Friday night against No. 12 Tennessee in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
Down two points, Xavian Stapleton missed a 3-point shot in the closing seconds as the Bulldogs fell 62-59 to the co-regular season champion Volunteers at the Scottrade Center.
The No. 7 seed Bulldogs took the No. 2 seed Volunteers to the closing seconds after dropping a 22-point decision at home last week in the final week of the regular season.
MSU (22-11) will now await its postseason destination as NCAA and NIT bids will be handed out Sunday night.
The Bulldogs played the final 19 minutes of the game without freshman guard Nick Weatherspoon, who was injured on a play at the basket and taken to the hospital with a neck injury.
Weatherspoon’s injury left the Bulldogs dispirited for a long stretch in the second half.
Lamar Peters hit a couple of 3-pointers as the Bulldogs put things back together for the final 12 minutes and made a great bid for their second tournament victory.
Peters finished with 22 points after scoring 24 points in a second-round win over LSU Thursday night. Quinndary Weatherspoon added 17 points. Abdul Ado had a team-high eight rebounds.
Tennessee used an 8-0 run to build a 15-10 lead. The Bulldogs pulled even at 16 on a layup by Nick Weatherspoon. Tennessee rebuilt the five-point lead and stretched it to seven points twice.
MSU made one 3-point basket in the first half and trailed 31-24 at halftime.
The Bulldogs struggled offensively after the Weatherspoon injury but the Volunteers could not find separation.
A layup by Stapleton had the Bulldogs within four at 44-40 but the Volunteers came right back with five straight.
A 3-point play by Quinndary Weatherspoon had the Bulldogs within 51-49 with 6:34 left.
The Bulldogs trailed by two at 58-56 after a trey by Peters.
UT missed the second of two free throws to set up the potential game-winner.
For the contest, MSU hit 20 of 56 shots from the field (35.7 percent), 5 of 21 shots from 3-point range (23.8 percent) and 14 of 16 shots from the foul line (87.5 percent). Tennessee hit 20 of 60 shots from the field (33.3 percent), 5 of 20 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 17 of 28 shots from the foul line (60.7 percent).
Tennessee held a 50-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had one assist and 16 turnovers, while the Volunteers had 11 assists and 17 turnovers.
Tennessee (24-7) received 15 points from Lamonte Turner, 13 points from Admiral Schofield and 10 points from Grant Williams. Williams collected a double-double with a game-high 11 rebounds.