YOUTHFUL BITE: Newman, Bulldogs send Rebels to fourth straight loss
STARKVILLE — While Ole Miss didn’t have its veteran scorers on the floor Saturday, Mississippi State had both of its talented youngsters.
It made all the difference.
Rasheed Brooks scored 20 points for Ole Miss while freshman Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey added 16 points, but the shorthanded Rebels fell victim to some hot shooting by Mississippi State’s highly touted freshmen in an 83-77 loss at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU got a career-high 25 points from Malik Newman and 18 points from Quinndary Weatherspoon to notch its first SEC win. The Bulldogs (8-10, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) came in next to last in the league in 3-point shooting (30.8 percent) but lit up the Rebels’ switching defenses to shoot 50 percent (12 of 24) from deep and 51.9 percent for the game.
Newman, MSU’s heralded five-star signee, and Weatherspoon did most of the damage with Newman, who went 8 of 16 from the field, scoring 20 of his points after halftime and finishing 7 of 10 from beyond the arc. Weatherspoon made seven of his 10 shots from the field, helping the Bulldogs end Ole Miss’ four-game winning streak in the series dating back to 2014.
“We left the best shooter in the gym open (in Newman),” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “He made us pay as he should have.”
Ole Miss (12-7, 2-5), which lost its fourth straight game, was without 60 percent of its starting lineup in Sebastian Saiz, Martavious Newby and Stefan Moody, the SEC’s leading scorer. Saiz (eye surgery) and Newby (eye) each missed their second straight game while Moody (hamstring) watched from the bench in street clothes.
Brooks, who bounced back from an 0-for-10 shooting night Tuesday against South Carolina, went 8 of 15 from the floor to match his highest point total this season while Anthony Perez had his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, getting his first start at the point in Moody’s absence, added four assists while Sam Finley reached double figures for first time since November with 10 points in 18 minutes.
Kennedy said after the game that Moody’s status is still “day to day,” which likely makes his availability for Ole Miss’ next game against Auburn on Wednesday a game-time decision.
“Moody just brings a different dynamic to the game. He’s electric,” Brooks said. “My part was the same as what it usually is. It’s just not having your first scoring option out there. That was probably the hard part.”
Yet Ole Miss still shot 50 percent (10 of 20) from 3-point range and finished plus-5 (36-31) on the glass, but finishing near the basket was a problem against MSU’s bigs without Saiz. The Rebels made just 32.5 percent (14 of 43) of their 2-point shots with forwards Marcanvis Hymon and Tomasz Gielo combining to go 5 of 17 from the floor.
“If you would’ve told me coming in, ‘Coach, you’re going to outrebound them by five, you’re only going to have 10 turnovers and you’re going to shoot 50 percent from 3, would you take your chances?’ Absolutely,” Kennedy said. “Our issue is finishing at the basket, making hard, SEC, athletic plays at the basket.”
Ole Miss led 38-36 at the half and pushed the lead to 45-39 on a 3-pointer from Perez with 16:04 left, but MSU made its next five shots to highlight a 16-3 run that put the Bulldogs in control. Newman drained a pair of 3s during the spurt and knocked down another one with 8:25 left to give MSU the lead for good at 62-59.
“Malik Newman was fantastic,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “He absolutely took the game over in that second half and really got aggressive.”