Story by Ben Everett | Sports Writer, Video by Branson Hardcastle | Broadcast Reporter
No.1-seed Baylor men’s basketball fell to No. 4-seed Mississippi State Sunday afternoon 78-77 Sunday afternoon to end its season at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (19-15) fell victim to a last second three-pointer by Mississippi State junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon that bounced off the rim and fell into the basket.
Baylor had come back from as many as 20 points down to take a 71-62 lead with under five minutes to play, but could not hold on for the win.
Senior forward Terry Maston tied a career-high with 26 points in his final game in a Baylor uniform.
Maston said the Bears never gave up because they knew the season was on the line.
“We just didn’t give up,” Maston said. “We knew that a lot was at stake. We did a great job fighting back. Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted in the end, but I think we still did a great job not giving up.”
Maston outscored the entire Mississippi State team 12-10 in the third quarter to give the Bears the lead going into the fourth.
Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland praised Maston’s skill on the basketball court.
“He’s so good,” Howland said. “He’s only started two games in his career, which is incredible for a guy that talented. He really causes problems.”
Prior to the game, Baylor announced that freshman forward Tristan Clark would miss the game as well as the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot, so Baylor’s already thin bench became even thinner.
Mississippi State freshman guard Nick Weatherspoon, the team’s second-leading scorer, injured his hip in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal game against Tennessee, but made his return to the court after missing the opening round of the NIT.
Weatherspoon knocked in two jumpers off the dribble to start the game, and his older brother Quinndary Weatherspoon scored four straight points to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead at the 4:48 mark of the first quarter.
The Bears battled back with senior forward Nuni Omot driving the lane for an and-one and junior guard King McClure splashing a three, but Mississippi State junior guard Xavier Stapleton drained his own three-pointer with under a minute left to give the Bulldogs a 24-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Mississippi State started the second quarter on a 10-1 run with Stapleton knocking down two more from distance and the Bears did not hit a field goal in the first three minutes as the Bulldogs led 34-16 at the 6:53 mark.
The Bears chipped away at the lead by attacking the rim, but the Bulldogs stayed hot from beyond the arc to hold a 47-33 lead at the break.
Mississippi State shot eight for 13 from deep in the first half while the Bears made just one out of six attempts.
The Bears came charging out of the gates in the second half, with Maston scoring six straight points for Baylor including a vicious two-handed slam to cut the MSU lead to 48-41 with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter.
A gutsy 7-0 run by Mississippi State quieted the crowd as the Bears found themselves down by double digits once again at the 4:36 mark of the third quarter.
Baylor responded with its biggest run of the day. The Bears kept feeding Maston in the post, and after a technical foul was called on Stapleton, all the momentum swung in Baylor’s favor. A tip dunk from senior center Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. as time expired gave the Bears a 58-57 lead at the end of the third quarter to cap a 17-2 run over a four minute stretch.
Mississippi State sophomore guard Tyson Carter kept the Bulldogs in the game with back-to-back buckets, but Maston continued to produce points on the other end as the Bears held a 66-62 lead with 5:12 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs brought out the full court pressure, and succeeded to cut the lead to four before Quinndary Weatherspoon drained a three to cut it to one. Maston came up clutch with back-to-back jumpers, but Carter knocked down a three to tie the game with 35 seconds left.
With the shot and game clock almost in sync, Lecomte held the ball for 20 seconds before making a move to the lane and banking in a floater with six seconds left to give Baylor a two point lead.
The Bulldogs passed the ball up the court and Quinndary Weatherspoon launched a contested three-pointer as time expired that hit the front of the rim and bounced in to give Mississippi State the win.
The Bulldogs came in as the 335th best 3-point shooting team in the country, but shot 13-for-22 from deep in the win.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said that was the difference in the game.
“That 59 percent obviously really hurts,” Drew said. “But you have to credit them for making shots.”