Weatherspoon, No. 17 Mississippi State hold off Wright State
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By BRANDON SHIELDS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) Mississippi State was thrown off by Wright State's small-ball lineup, and a comfortable matchup with a .500 team turned into a battle.
Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 14 points and Mississippi State went 5 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final minute as the 17th-ranked Bulldogs held off Wright State 67-63 on Saturday night for their eighth straight victory.
Center Loudon Love, who averages 14.0 points and 8.8 rebounds, was injured in Wright State's shootaround and did not play. Bulldogs coach Ben Howland said the Raiders adjusted masterfully.
"We prepared the last two days for Love and come to find out he suffers an injury, and they played completely different without him. We prepared to double him in the post and everything was about him," Howland said. "They spread the floor, and give them a lot of credit, they are a good veteran team and shot the 3-ball well in the second half. When you beat a good team like they are and they keep on winning, it will definitely help us."
Aric Holman had 12 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and four assists for the Bulldogs (11-1).
"Our two seniors (Weatherspoon and Holman) did a good job leading us tonight. I told the guys we better be ready," Howland said. "We had to make adjustments in the first half against their small lineup, but in the second half they got open on 3-point shots."
Bill Wampler had 19 points for the Raiders (6-7), who went on a 13-2 run starting midway through the second half and tied the game at 55-all on Parker Ernsthausen's 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5:57 remaining.
Lamar Peters put the Bulldogs ahead again with a free throw, and Mississippi State didn't trail from there, although Wright State cut the lead to one point on two occasions.
Mississippi State led 35-24 at halftime and 38-27 early in the second half, but Wright State made four 3-pointers, three by Wampler, and Malachi Smith converted a three-point play to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 43-42.
"We just had to start communicating more on both sides of the floor," Holman said. "Defensively we were helping with their 3s when they would dribble into the paint and pass the ball out for the open shot."
Ernsthausen and Mark Hughes scored 11 points apiece for the Raiders. Each team had 12 turnovers.
Wright State: The Raiders shot 23 percent (3 of 13) from 3-point range in the first half but made 8 of 15 (53 percent) from beyond the arc in the second half.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs went 6 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final five minutes, and layups from Peters, Nick Weatherspoon and Robert Woodard helped Mississippi State pull away.
Wright State hosts Illinois-Chicago on Friday to open Horizon League play.
Mississippi State hosts BYU next Saturday.
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Updated December 22, 2018