Starkville Daily News - - COMICS -

“We know it's go­ing to be very tough for us to still get in, but we're not go­ing to give up,” MSU fresh­man guard Nick Weather­spoon said.

Mississippi State (21-9, 9-8) could have made its life much eas­ier had it been able to take down Ten­nes­see (22-7, 12-5). Early on in Tues­day's game, it looked like the Bull­dogs would do just that.

MSU came out fir­ing and took a 2517 lead over the Vol­un­teers a lit­tle over 10 min­utes into the con­test. How­ever, the good times wouldn't last for State. Ten­nes­see scored 15 of the next 20 points in the game to cap­ture the lead and MSU never get back in front the rest of the night.

“We had the lead and got sped up with the ex­cite­ment of the game,” How­land said. “We didn't han­dle our lead well.”

By half­time, Ten­nes­see led 40-34. The Vol­un­teers were aided by their abil­ity to get to the free-throw line. Ten­nes­see shot 16 times from the char­ity stripe in the first half and made 14 of them. State only had five op­por­tu­ni­ties from the line prior to the in­ter­mis­sion and made three.

“We have to get to the foul line,” How­land said. “We only got there 16 times (for the game). That's not enough.”

Ten­nes­see took com­plete con­trol in the sec­ond half. Led by for­ward Ad­mi­ral Schofield, who fin­ished with a game-high 24 points, the Vol­un­teers couldn't miss in the game's fi­nal 20 min­utes. Ten­nes­see shot 68.2 per­cent as a team in the sec­ond half. At one point, the Vols made 11 con­sec­u­tive shots from the field.

“We had a lot of break­downs on de­fense in the sec­ond half,” said MSU ju­nior guard Quin­ndary Weather­spoon, who led the Bull­dogs with 17 points.

While State's de­fense faded down the stretch, so too did the Bull­dog of­fense. MSU shot just 28.6 per­cent in the sec­ond half.

“We just weren't mak­ing shots,” Nick Weather­spoon said. “(Ten­nes­see) wasn't do­ing any­thing spe­cial against us. We just weren't be­ing pa­tient on of­fense and then we were get­ting lost on de­fense.”

It all added up to a flat end­ing for the Bull­dogs in a game that had so much an­tic­i­pa­tion go­ing in.

So what does MSU do from here? How­land says there is only one thing to do.

“We have to bounce back,” How­land said. “We have no choice.

“We have to learn from this. Ev­ery­body has to look in­wardly and see what we we can do bet­ter. In life or in bas­ket­ball, you have to bounce back in the face of ad­ver­sity.”

So with the odds now against them as far as the NCAA Tour­na­ment is con­cerned, the Bull­dogs now zero in on Satur­day's noon game at LSU.

“We have to go get the LSU win,” Quin­ndary Weather­spoon said. “The (Ten­nes­see) game is over with. We can't hold our heads down and slip up and let LSU beat us on the road. We just have to get back fo­cused.”

By Ja­son Cleve­land, SDN) (Photo

Mississippi State's Nick Weather­spoon (0) takes a jump shot over the out-stretched arm of Ten­nes­see's Jor­dan Bow­den.

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