Because the Bulldog point guard pulled on his only three-point try of the evening and made it count. Ready’s lone longball at 2:06 was clutch as well as key to Mississippi State’s 65-59 victory over visiting Northwestern State.
Ready did more than strike from distance down the stretch. His free throws at 4:05 tied the back-and-forth affair, and another one-pointer at 0:13 clinched success for State (4-2). The Demons left 2-4.
“That’s what you expect a senior point guard to do,” Coach Ben Howland said.
Ready did that and more. His 14 points paced Mississippi State as Ready was selective in his shooting. Up to the forced long shot he was 4-of-5 on layups or drives into traffic. But with a 57-56 lead and the clock winding down Ready had to heave.
“I was taking the ball lower and lower, and heard the coach say go under,” said Ready. But the Demons had the inside sealed and were ready for any pick-and-roll.
“As time was winding down, we practice that shot. I shot it with confidence.”
The Bulldogs weren’t in the clear quite yet, as Demon hotshot Zeke Woodley threw in the last of his five three-point baskets in response. Ready was able to move the Demon defense enough to open up a lane for forward Mario Kegler to attack and dunk at 1:20. Woodley missed one more trey-try and Ready made a beautiful lob-feed to forward Aric Holman for the deciding basket.
Ready finished with six assists, and while he wasn’t happy about five turnovers the eldest Dog did score five of State’s eleven steals. Inside, Holman scored 13 points with seven rebounds and blocked five shots.
Mississippi State had to overcome a big night by Woodley with 28 points. Half of his ten field goals came from three-point range as Woodley worked 35 minutes. No other Demon was in double-digits as guard Tra’von Joseph had seven points.
“I’m proud of my team for competing against a bigger team,” Coach Mike McConathay said. “The Achilles heel was the turnovers, they had 26 points off our turnovers.”
The Bulldogs had their share of miscues too. It began before the game when freshman guard Lamar Peters didn’t report for warmups. A manager found him asleep in the dorm room, and Howland told the starting guard not to bother coming late.
Classmate Eli Wright was given the off-guard job instead. “Coach came up and told me I was starting. That’s what I wanted. I think I did OK, just OK.”
Eleven points on 4-of-5 shooting with seven points was a lot more than OK. Freshman guard Tyson Carter added 10 points but after some early baskets went 4-of-15 and missed all seven of his trey-tries. In fact Mississippi State was just 2-of-15 at the arc, while the Demons bombed in nine three-pointers.
Made treys were the biggest part of a 14-0 run by Northwestern after Carter’s two baskets. Ready said playing zone defense was the early problem, though he knew the reason.
“We were a couple of guys short and Coach was worried about foul trouble. I think when we got out of zone we got more aggressive and tightened up defensively.”
As the Demons were cooled down State warmed up enough to regain the lead before Woodley tied it 28-28 before intermission. He hit another trey to open the next half as well and Northwestern State led 39-33 at 16:11.
Walk-on Nick Singleton proved his value off the bench with some timely buckets and defense mid-half as the Bulldogs caught back up again and battled evenly until Ready’s crunch-time take.
“That shot just broke my back,” McConathay said. Also, “We weren’t able to finish anything around the bucket because of their size.”
Mississippi State’s five-game homestand continues Thursday evening with a 8:00 tip against Oregon State.