DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Mississippi State coach Ben Howland extended his hand to Dayton’s Anthony Grant and borrowed a line from the end of the first “Rocky” movie — no, he doesn’t want a rematch.
That’s how the night went for the 25th-ranked Bulldogs.
Nick Weatherspoon hit a pair of 3-pointers in the closing minutes, and Mississippi State trailed most of the game before rallying to a 65-58 victory over Dayton on Friday night.
The Bulldogs (6-1) salvaged their first true road game by hitting late 3s after missing 15 of their first 19 tries from behind the arc. Weatherspoon hit a 3-pointer that tied it and another 3 from the corner with 27 seconds left put the Bulldogs up 61-55. He finished with 14 points.
Howland knew the Bulldogs would have a tough time at UD Arena. After a pair of close wins over the Flyers the last two seasons, he told his counterpart during the postgame handshake that he’d had enough.
“I was really questioning what I was thinking by scheduling Dayton,” he said. “I told him when I shook his hand that we’re not playing them anymore.”
Last season, the Bulldogs needed a steal and layup by Quinndary Weatherspoon with 4 seconds left to pull out a 61-59 win over the Flyers in Starkville. On Friday, the senior guard led Mississippi State with 21 points and 12 rebounds, two shy of his career high. His layup off an inbound pass with 13 seconds left clinched it.
The Bulldogs returned the top six scorers from last year’s team, and their experience in close games is beneficial.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who have played together the last two or three years,” Quinndary Weatherspoon said. “I think it showed the last few minutes of the game.”
Ryan Mikesell scored 15 points for Dayton (4-3), which was coming off a pair of tournament losses — 66-59 to Virginia and 65-54 to Oklahoma.
Dayton led by as many as 10 in the first half , taking advantage of the Bulldogs’ cold shooting. Reggie Perry made a 3-pointer and a jumper as Mississippi State cut the deficit to 29-26 at halftime.
Quinndary Weatherspoon had a 3-pointer and a layup during a nine-point run that gave Mississippi State a 35-31 lead early in the second half, but the Flyers rallied behind Mikesell to take a seven-point lead before the Bulldog’s final comeback.
“Their stamina, their will won out,” Grant said. “I thought their energy in the second half told the story of the game. They came out and were the more aggressive team to start the half, and they finished strong.”
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were coming off their top offensive showing. They shot a season-high 61 percent and had a season-best 24 assists in an 88-65 win over Alcorn State. It didn’t carry over — the Bulldogs missed 12 of their first 17 shots as Dayton pulled ahead by nine points.
Dayton: The Flyers haven’t beaten a ranked team at home since knocking off No. 16 Alabama during the 2011-12 season and were looking for a signature win under their second-year coach. They couldn’t close it out down the stretch.
“We’ve got to be able to sustain it,” Grant said. “We’ve got to overcome the peaks and valleys in every game. That’s just part of the process of it.”
The Bulldogs are 2-0 all-time against Dayton, with wins the last two seasons and a 56-54 victory at UD Arena on Dec. 19, 1975.
Dayton is 0-5 against team from the Power 5 conferences in the last two seasons.
Mississippi State hosts McNeese State on Tuesday.
Dayton hosts Detroit Mercy on Tuesday.
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