2 words can perfectly describe the game against Austin Peay. Ball movement. Just from the first game, you can tell Coach Ben Howland wants to move the ball all around and use every player. From the tip-off, to Quinndary Weatherspoon’s layup on that possession, the Bulldogs completely dominated up and down the court.
The second the game started, the Bulldogs commanded the game. On the first possession, Lamar Peters kicked it to Quinndary Weatherspoon and he drove to the basket for an easy layup and the first points of the season. Austin Peay tied the game at 2-2, and that’s the last time they had a chance to take a lead. Mississippi State quickly jumped out to a 9-2 lead and never looked back. By halftime, MSU had a comfortable 50-34 lead.
Q Weatherspoon led the team with 21 points on their way to a 95-67 victory. His younger brother, Nick, was right behind him with 19 points. By the end, 5 different players finished with double-digit points, and one of those came off the bench. It didn't take long for freshmen Reggie Perry and Robert Woodard to make their college debuts. Both were impressive and gave good minutes. Perry finished with 5 points and 4 rebounds. He was strong with the ball in his hands. Woodard collected 8 points, 1 steal, 1 assist, and 9 rebounds. Woodard had a flashy dunk on a fast break in the first half. I can see Woodard becoming one of my favorite players and I'm very excited to see these two get more minutes and get better; both players looked like they belonged here. It was announced after the game that DJ Stewart will be taking a redshirt year this season.
Starting with the negatives, the 3-pointer is still a struggle for this team. Last year, the Bulldogs shot .318, I expected this number to improve greatly with the maturation of our veterans and addition of new shooters, but this game wasn't different from last year. Shooting 7-25(28%) from 3 against this opponent won't get you far when playing better competition. Committing fouls was also a struggle. The Bulldogs committed 7 fouls in the first 12 minutes of the game and finished with 25 total. Lamar Peters fouled out; this is something that cannot happen consistently. Similar to last year, there’s not a whole lot of off-ball movement on offense. This is something that Coach Howland must fix; just standing there on offense gets you nowhere. Allowing offensive rebounds seemed to be an issue against the Governors; hopefully this is a one-game fluke.
Here are the positives. Quinndary Weatherspoon is the man. He has always played as an slasher driving to the basket, but it looks like he’s on another level. Q is the dominant senior that he's supposed to be. Tyson Carter seems to be stronger with the ball in his hands. He isn’t standing on the 3 point line waiting on his shot. He is more aggressive when he has the ball and is taking it to the basket and attempting to finish. He made some nice dribbling moves, opening up the paint for him to push into for a layup. Lamar Peters seems to make the team better when he scores less. While only finishing with 6 points, Peters gave the team 7 assists and only 1 turnover before fouling out in the 2nd. In the first half, Peters had an amazing drive and dump off to Ado. I’m sure there’s a lot more of that to come from him. My favorite part watching this game was the ball movement. Howland used a lot of motion to counter the 2-3 zone Austin Peay ran. I like seeing everyone touching the ball on a possession; this keeps the defense on their heels and leads to easy shots.
Mississippi State shot 28% from deep, and still managed to score 95 points. The team shot 30-39 (76.9%) from inside the arc. The freshman will soon have their breakout games and this team should keep rolling through their opponents. This team will be fun to watch all the way through March.