By JOEL COLEMAN
Quinndary Weatherspoon was already earning quite the fan following with his outstanding freshman season at Mississippi State. With one dramatic basket Tuesday night, he went from fan-favorite to hero.
Weatherspoon hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer as Mississippi State finished off an improbable second-half comeback over Vanderbilt for a 75-74 win.
“My phone is going crazy right now,” Weatherspoon said after the game. “I think that’s the first game-winner I’ve ever hit. That’s the No. 1 moment in my career right now.”
The basket gave Weatherspoon a new career-high single-game point total with 24. More importantly, it put the final touches on erasing what was once a 17-point lead for Vandy. Until Weatherspoon’s game-winner, Vandy hadn’t trailed since briefly going down 2-0 in the game’s opening moments.
“When you control the game for that long, you should win, but we didn’t,” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said.
Weatherspoon’s shot spoiled strong performances from a pair of Commodores.
Matthew Fisher-Davis, the Southeastern Conference’s second-best 3-point shooter coming in, went 6-of-9 from beyond the arc including hitting five treys in the first half en route to scoring 20 total points.
Damian Jones also scored 20 for Vanderbilt (15-11, 7-6).
Gavin Ware and Craig Sword joined Weatherspoon in double figures for the Bulldogs (11-14, 4-9). Ware recorded a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Sword scored 14 points.
Ware’s rebound off a missed 3-pointer from Malik Newman set up Weatherspoon’s game-winning shot. Ware said he considered taking a shot himself, but opted to pass to I.J. Ready who then found Weatherspoon in the corner for his buzzer-beater.
“I’ve never seen Gavin pass up a shot,” Ready joked.
“That’s how I knew we were going to win,” Weatherspoon chimed in.
Vanderbilt controlled things for most of the game. The Commodores sprinted ahead to a 21-7 advantage midway through the first half and carried a 41-32 lead into the intermission.
Vandy was up 61-44 with just 13:38 to play before Mississippi State clawed its way back into the game.
With 3:47 to go, MSU had closed its gap to 71-70. From there, Jones extended the Vandy lead to 73-70 with a dunk. Ware then pulled the Bulldogs back within one with a layup, but the Commodores went up 74-72 with 27 seconds left when Riley LaChance hit one of his two free throw attempts.
That set up the game’s final few seconds which saw MSU get its first win on a buzzer-beater since Brian Bryant pulled off the feat in an overtime victory at South Carolina in February of 2012.
“This just shows to never give up or never stop giving your best,” Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said. “That attitude gets rewarded.”