ATHENS, Ga. — A small stuffed bulldog toy tossed onto the court with the game tied and 0.5 seconds remaining was just the break Quinndary Weatherspoon and Mississippi State needed.
Weatherspoon was already at the free-throw line before officials penalized Georgia with a technical foul for the fan’s action. Weatherspoon was given another free throw — and all the cushion he would need.
Weatherspoon sank one of three free throws with the game on the line, giving him a career-high 31 points and lifting Mississippi State to a 68-67 win over Georgia on Wednesday night.
Georgia coach Tom Crean was upset the technical foul was called with no warning. He rushed to the scorer’s table, grabbed a microphone and asked fans to refrain from throwing objects onto the court. It was too late to save Georgia from the technical foul.
“I’ve never seen that, not without a warning and certainly without an explanation,” Crean said.
With the game tied at 67-all, Weatherspoon was awarded two free throws when fouled by Jordan Harris. He missed his first free throw at about the same time the stuffed bulldog came flying onto the court.
“That was a huge play,” said Mississippi State coach Ben Howland. “I can’t imagine who did that, but it was not smart. [Weatherspoon] might miss the second one.”
Instead, he made the free throw for the technical foul and then intentionally missed his third attempt. Georgia didn’t have time to attempt another shot after grabbing the rebound.
“We were really fortunate there at the end to not have to go to OT,” Howland said.
The result of the last-second craziness: Mississippi State (19-7, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) boosted its NCAA Tournament hopes while Georgia (10-16, 1-12) suffered its seventh straight loss overall and 11th straight SEC setback.
Tyree Crump sank a tying 3-pointer for Georgia with 9.1 seconds remaining. The shot capped an impressive comeback after the host Bulldogs trailed by 17 points early in the second half.
Georgia led 24-20 before the visiting Bulldogs closed the first half with a 16-1 run capped by 13 unanswered points. Weatherspoon scored 12 of the 16 points in the stretch over the final 3:19 of the half to give Mississippi State a 36-25 lead.
Mississippi State extended the run to 19-0 by scoring the first six points of the second half, including back-to-back baskets from Weatherspoon. After leading 42-25, Mississippi State played as if the win was assured.
“We ended up just settling down which we just can’t do, especially on the road with a good rebounding team like Georgia,” said forward Abdul Ado. “We have to do better than that.”
Harris led Georgia with 13 points. Rayshaun Hammonds had 12 points and 10 rebounds.