COLUMBIA, S.C. — When Mississippi State needed help at South Carolina, there was always a Weatherspoon there to provide it.
Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half while young brother Nick Weatherspoon scored 17 points to lead the Bulldogs to an 81-76 victory at South Carolina on Wednesday night.
Quinndary Weatherspoon twice accounted for three points after the Gamecocks cut a nine-point lead to one, the first time when he was fouled behind the arc and made all three free throws, the last time on a more traditional shot that extended Mississippi State’s lead to 73-69 with less than five minutes left.
“I had a slow first half and I just wanted to come out and play as hard as I could to get a win,” Quinndary Weatherspoon said.
Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said Weatherspoon, a 6-foot-4 junior, is not rushing things, and letting the game come to him. “That’s a sign,” Howland said, “of a guy who’s matured.”
Although, it’s not so bad to play freshman Nick Weatherspoon, who had 13 points in the opening half including a driving layup right before the half that sent the Bulldogs (16-6, 4-5 Southeastern Conference) into the locker up by one instead of trailing.
“Can’t say enough great things about little brother because he’s a good player,” Howland said.
The Bulldogs won an SEC road game — and consecutive league games — for the first time all season. Mississippi State also ended a four-game losing streak at South Carolina (13-9, 4-5), which dated back to 2012.
The Weatherspoons were a big reason why.
Quinndary Weatherspoon caught fire after the break, hitting four of six shots including two from behind the arc. He had seven points in an 18-8 run midway through the period as Mississippi State built a 57-48 lead.
“That’s just a good player doing what good players do,” Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said.
The Gamecocks rallied back and cut the lead to a point several times, the last one on Hassani Gravett’s driving layup with 4:50 to go. But Quinndary Weathspoon answered with a 3-pointer and the Gamecocks could not get closer than three points the rest of the way.
Wesley Myers had a chance to tie the game in the final minute with South Carolina trailing 77-74, but his 3-pointer was off the mark with 27 seconds left. Aric Holman followed with a thunder dunk for the Bulldogs about 10 seconds later to end the drama.
It’s the 13th time in 22 games that a Weatherspoon has led the scoring for Mississippi State.
Frank Booker had a career high 25 points to lead the Gamecocks, who have lost three of their past four games and all of them at home. Booker’s previous high was 22 against Middle Tennessee in January 2017 when he played for Florida Atlantic.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs didn’t get to the foul line much, but made their chances count. Mississippi State shot 12 fewer free throws than South Carolina, but made 14 of their 15 tries. It’s a solid formula to close out tight games.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks appeared a bit sluggish in the first game against a non-ranked opponent in two-and-half weeks. Starting point guard Wesley Myers, a big reason South Carolina beat Top 25 teams Kentucky and Florida, had four turnovers and zero assists the first 20 minutes. He finished with five turnovers and one assist.
Mississippi State freshman Abdul Ado had a career high 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had four blocks before fouling out with less than three minutes to go. Howland said it was the 6-foot-11 Ado’s best overall showing this season. Howland also apologized to Ado when he didn’t get any postgame questions. “That okay,” Ado said. “I got the win.”
Freshman Justin Minaya played the most minutes of all South Carolina guards because of his tenacity and ability to play on-the-ball defense. But Minaya sat out with an ankle he sprained in practice. Martin wasn’t sure how soon Minaya might return
Mississippi State starts a two-game home stand against Georgia on Saturday night
South Carolina hits the road to play Texas A&M on Saturday.