By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
No. 1-seed Baylor men’s basketball will take on No. 4-seed Mississippi State at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (19-14) are coming off of an 80-59 opening round win over Wagner on Tuesday to move to 11-1 in the NIT under head coach Scott Drew.
Two Baylor players were injured in the win, however. Junior guard Jake Lindsey injured his hip and freshman forward Tristan Clark hurt his foot.
Drew said both players are tough and would play if they were just dinged up.
“Both of them are tough kids,” Drew said. “Usually they have to be hurt to not play.”
The Bulldogs (23-11) won seven of their last 11 games to finish seventh in the SEC standings, but did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament despite two teams below them in the standings (Texas A&M, Alabama) getting into the field.
Mississippi State’s leading scorer, junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, was named to the All-SEC Second Team following a season in which he averaged 14.6 points per game and shot 48.5 percent from the field.
The 6-foot-4-inch Weatherspoon was limited to just eight points in the Bulldogs win over No. 5 seed Nebraska on Wednesday. Meanwhile, sophomore point guard Lamar Peters registered a career-high 14 assists, 10 assists over his per-game average this season.
Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said Peters has impressed as a true point guard this season.
“Lamar is really blossoming into quite a distributor,” Howland told USA Today. “He could’ve had 18 assists.”
The Bulldogs’ second leading scorer, freshman guard Nick Weatherspoon, was sidelined with a hip injury in the win and is doubtful to play against the Bears.
All four Baylor seniors scored double figures in the win over Wagner, led by 24 points from senior guard Manu Lecomte, inducing five three-pointers. Lecomte is now No. 8 all-time in three-pointers made in Baylor history despite only playing two seasons with the team.
Lecomte said the Bears have an NIT Championship in their sights despite losing out on an NCAA Tournament bid.
“We’ve got winners in the locker room,” Lecomte said. “We know we’re an NCAA [Tournament] team, but that’s not up to us to decide. We’ve moved on. We’ve got a new goal now — the NIT. That’s what we’re all about now.”
This is the third NIT appearance for Baylor under Drew, and the seventh straight postseason appearance for the Bears.
Drew said postseason play is a rare occurrence, so the Bears are in elite company.
“Out of the last seven years, we’re one of 16 schools to make the postseason,” Drew said. “Out of 351 schools, to be one out of 16, it’s a great honor for these guys.”
Should the Bears win, they will face the winner of No. 2-seed Louisville and No. 3-seed Middle Tennessee at the Ferrell Center.