Newman used a home game with Ole Miss to show why he is still regarded as a one-season Bulldog. He drilled seven three-point baskets and scored 25 total points leading Mississippi State to an 83-77 victory in Humphrey Coliseum.
“I needed it,” said Newman. “I needed it more than anything. I think it opened up some doors to my game.”
And, to a result Mississippi State’s program absolutely needed. The Bulldogs snapped a four-loss streak in the rivalry for one thing. For another, they got Coach Ben Howland’s first conference win after three frustrating weeks. A season-best crowd of 8,932 turned out to see State improve to 8-10, 1-5 SEC, thanks first to Newman’s firepower.
“The crowd was great, the student section was even better. We were out there having fun and playing for what was across our chests.”
“Malik Newman was fantastic,” Howland said. “He absolutely took over the game in the second half.”
Newman played a different game in the second half. Having gone 1-of-5 in the first period for five points, he ran wild after intermission.
Almost immediately after intermission in fact. His long-ball at 18:59 was a personal turning point of sorts.
“It was a tough one, it was contested,” Newman said. “And I was able to knock it down. It felt good and it went in.” It took four-and-a-half more minutes before he popped the next trey, and from there Newman was unstoppable.
Treys at 14:25 and 13:46 put the Bulldogs back in front and left the Rebel defense frustrated. Or worse, as at 11:12 he and Ole Miss guard Terence Davis had a few more words and actions than the referee wanted.
“It was a little high school thing that happened,” Jackson-Callaway product Newman said of Southhaven native Davis. “That’s from something back in the past.” The double-technical did seem to do more for Ole Miss’ attitude at the moment. But when Newman got back to burning their variety of zone-sets for another trey the Bulldogs regained the lead 62-59 and were off on a 11-0 run that effectively settled the outcome.
Newman would make good on 7-of-10 long shots, one trey shy of the program record. “Once they’re going in, the bucket does feel bigger,” said Newman, who was 1-of-6 inside that arc.
“We left the best shooter in the gym open,” Rebel Coach Andy Kennedy said. “He made us pay, as he should have.” Ole Miss left 12-7, 2-5 SEC. The Rebels were playing without their top two scorers as league-leader guard Stefan Moody and forward Sebastian Saiz were out with injury.
“You take your best player out of your lineup, it’s a big difference no question,” Howland agreed. “But when these two teams hook up my sense is it doesn’t matter who is playing, it’s on.”
Even before Newman got hot the Bulldog teams was more on than the visitors. Guard Craig Sword and forward Johnny Zuppardo did the early damage at the arc for a 17-8 lead. Howland used this to try resting three starters in sequences, but it backfired as State lost offensive momentum.
The Rebels found theirs, and entirely at the arc too. Even with the Bulldogs playing man-defense shooters got open and cashed in with three-balls by Rasheed Brooks, Anthony Perez, and Tomasz Gielo. For the first half Ole Miss was just 10-of-32 shooting but had seven made-threes and led 38-36.
It wasn’t just their outside accuracy though. Howland tried both IJ Ready and Newman at point guard but State couldn’t get the right outside looks as a result. And attacking the zone(s) resulted in turnovers, eleven in the first half alone for 16 Rebel points. When the Dogs didn’t lose the ball, they shot 54% but still trailed. If not for freshman guard Quindarry Weatherspoon’s 15 first-half points the home team would have been in huge trouble.
“I’m just attacking the rim and trying to get fouled, trying not to settle for jumpers,” Weatherspoon said. “I think it went well for me.” Maybe Weatherspoon’s work in that half influenced Rebel defensive priorities for the second. Or maybe it was just Newman choosing this time to show why he was and still is considered a one-and-done collegian.
“He let it come to him, we moved the ball well the second half,” Howland said. Even when Newman didn’t play patient, it worked. After Ready beat a half-court trap and Newman got the ball a long, long way from the goal with plenty time on the shot clock, he felt free to fire.
And, hit for a 75-63 lead, the game’s high margin. Ole Miss was able to claw back within four points in the final half-minute, but tried trapping for a turnover rather than fouling to stop the clock. Sword beat the press and fed center Gavin Ware for a dunk at 0:13 to make sure there’d be no comeback.
Weatherspoon had a quiet second half to finish with 18 points but also came away with six rebounds playing as ‘big’ forward in a small lineup. Ware couldn’t get open often inside any sort of zone, much less his teammates deliver the ball either. The senior still managed 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting and hit his four free throws. Sword added 10 points with eight rebounds and five assists, along with two blocks in as well-rounded a game as the senior has played.
And as Howland noted, “Chicken is manning-up for his team. He has a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder and he’s playing through pain.”
Brooks tried to pick up much of the missing Moody’s load, going 8-of-15 for 20 points with four made-treys. Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey added 16 points, Perez 14 with three treys, and Sam Finley came off the bench for 10 more. Ole Miss was held to 38% shooting but hit half the long attempts, 10-of-20. They also got more free throw attempts and makes, against the usual road-team rival norm.
Home or away, erasing that ‘0’ in the SEC record mattered much to the Bulldogs. “It felt to come out and get our first win,” Newman said. “Especially against a rival. It was everything that we needed.”
That was true for their first-year head coach, too.
“I’m proud to be a Bulldog and I’m proud to have come out on top in the first time playing them,” said Howland, who knows a thing or two about rivalries after his tenures at Pitt and UCLA. “Nothing is more important for Mississippi State than beating Ole Miss. I’m sure it’s the same way for Ole Miss.”
The Rebels get their home-court chance to square the series on March 2. Kennedy said Moody is day-to-day, and that Saiz could return to action next week.