Mississippi State hosted Brigham-Young today to end the non-conference slate and continue the Bulldog’s winning streak. MSU, now ranked 19, dropped 2 spots in the rankings this week in spite of going 2-0 last week. For the second year in a row, Mississippi State goes into conference play with a record of 12-1.
BYU showed up for the better part of the first half. The Bulldogs started a little slow at the beginning of the game, and for the first 10 minutes, there were 5 lead changes. After BYU tied the game 23-23, MSU went on a 13-0 run to get a comfortable lead, and they never looked back. Mississippi State was up by 10 at the half, but they came back out and continued with the offensive fireworks. Lamar Peters, for the first time all season, finished the game with 0 points, but that doesn’t mean he didn't contribute. Peters finished the game with 6 assists and 3 steals. Two of those assists were alley-oops to Nick Weatherspoon and Aric Holman. Nick Weatherspoon scored 11 before leaving in the 2nd half with a left ankle injury. Aric Holman scored 28 points and Quinndary Weatherspoon was right behind him with 27. Reggie Perry and Tyson Carter are still forces to be reckoned with coming off the bench with Perry scoring 11 and Carter adding 16. At 3:31 in the 2nd half, the Bulldogs led the game 100-64 and was the largest of the game. Howland took the starters out, and BYU got some points in the closing minutes to have a final score of 103-81.
Per usual, I start with the negatives. The Bulldogs had gotten away from their sluggish starts, for the most part, the past few games, but they went back to it in this game. Hopefully Coach Howland addresses this issue so it’s not a problem in conference games. Robert Woodard’s contributions have slowly fallen over the course of this season. This could be because of the great play from the starting guards, Tyson Carter, and Reggie Perry. Woodard has incredible potential, and I’m excited to see how Howland will use him in the future. The biggest negative was the Bulldogs had a total of 19 turnovers. A stat like this can cripple a team in this conference.
And the positives. The Bulldogs didn't make 14 3’s in this game, but they were efficient, shooting 7-21 (33.3%). Holman, Carter, and Q shot a combined 7-13 (53.8%) and were the only players to cash in from behind the arc. This team’s chemistry is growing every game and they’re starting to connect on jaw-dropping plays. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw Nick Weatherspoon rise up, catch the alley-oop, and throw it down. Peters and Nick haven’t been able to connect on that pass all year, but they did today. Aric Holman and Q scored more than half of the team’s total points at 55. These are the only seniors on the team and it showed.
Now the most important part of the schedule begins. Mississippi State starts conference play with a trip to South Carolina, hosting Ole Miss and Florida, then traveling to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Last year, the Dawgs started 12-1, got beaten up in the SEC, but recovered in the end to make it in the NIT. They have the same record this year, but the players and coaches feel different about this team that’s 12-1. I believe Howland will have this ready to take on, arguably, the best conference in basketball.