STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - With several players rising to the challenge, Mississippi State won in dramatic fashion during overtime, 72-68, against South Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum.
Playing before a crowd of 8,162, the Bulldogs made it seven wins in the last nine conference games. The Bulldogs also continued to better the school record for home victories by moving to 18-1 at home this season.
MSU improved to 21-8 overall and 9-7 in conference play, while being guaranteed to enter the final week of the regular season in a tie for third place in the conference standings. The Bulldogs also completed a season sweep of the Gamecocks. South Carolina, a Final Four participant a year ago, fell to 15-14 and 6-10.
"That was a phenomenal, gut-check win for us," Coach Ben Howland said. "South Carolina is so difficult to play against. It's hard to simulate that pressure in a couple of days of practice because they deny everything. The crowd was phenomenal. It really helped lift the kids.
"Eli Wright was great for us there when we needed it. Lamar Peter was solid. You could tell we were a little tired. It's such a grind and it's difficult this late in the year."
Peters led the Bulldogs with 19 points. Quinndary Weatherspoon and Tyson Carter each added 13 points, while Nick Weatherspoon had 10 points. Peters had five assists and four steals, while Quinndary Weatherspoon had four assists and four steals.
Aric Holman and Quinndary Weatherspoon each had a team-high seven rebounds.
The Bulldogs fought uphill most of the contest before a 3-point basket by Nick Weatherspoon gave the Bulldogs a 49-47 lead with 5:53 left in the contest. That trey capped a comeback from a 13-point deficit.
During the rally, MSU got a huge lift from Wright, who had eight points in 14 minutes. Wright drove the basket, drew a foul but scored the field goal three times.
A tough-shooting first half by the Bulldogs allowed the Gamecocks to build a lead. South Carolina used an 11-0 run to open an 11-2 advantage. The Bulldogs were held to three field goals over the first 14 minutes of the contest.
South Carolina ran the lead to 13 at 24-11 with 6:07 left in the half.
In the opening half, the Bulldogs shot 33.3 percent from the field.
South Carolina led 32-25 at halftime.
In the second half, things eventually fell into place with a gritty defensive ending and more shots falling.
"Wright was really huge for us in the second half," Howland said. "Having five guards who can help us is great. Xavian Stapleton had some great minutes. Nick Weatherspoon hit the big 3-pointer. The way we had to battle through to get this one was great. It's a huge win for our program."
The Gamecocks still led 40-28 with 16:43 left in the second half.
After Nick Weatherspoon's 3-pointer, a follow-up basket by Peters ran the lead to 51-48. The Bulldogs led by as many as five but the Gamecocks kept coming, eventually tying the contest on a 3-pointer by Hassani Gravett as regulation time expired.
The Bulldogs never trailed in overtime with a 3-pointer by Carter getting things started. A layup by Peters broke the game's last tie with 59 seconds left. Quinndary Weatherspoon then had a critical steal and hit two free throws to close out the win.
For the contest, MSU hit 24 of 56 shots from the field (42.9 percent), 6 of 20 shots from 3-point range (30.0 percent) and 18 of 23 shots from the foul line (78.3 percent). South Carolina hit 26 of 59 shots from the field (44.1 percent), 5 of 18 shots from 3-point range (27.8 percent) and 11 of 16 shots from the foul line (68.8 percent).
South Carolina held a 40-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 14 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Gamecocks had eight assists and 21 turnovers.
South Carolina received 19 points from Gravett and 11 points apiece from Malik Kotsar, Chris Silva and Felipe Hasse. Silva finished with a double-double as he had a game-high 12 rebounds.
MSU will play its final home game of the regular season Tuesday night when nationally-ranked Tennessee comes to the Humphrey Coliseum. The Senior Night contest is set for a 6 p.m. start on SEC Network.
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