Bulldogs win exhibition game after sloppy start

MSU's Lamar Peters (1) and Quinndary Weatherspoon get back on defense.
Staff Writer

Exhibition games are typically the stage teams use to knock off the rust and make last-minute adjustments prior to the season.

For about 10 minutes on Thursday night, Mississippi State displayed it indeed had kinks to work out as the Bulldogs battled West Florida.

There were turnovers aplenty. There were bad fouls. There was general sloppiness from MSU.

In the end though, the Bulldogs came out feeling pretty good about themselves as Mississippi State earned an 87-62 victory over the visiting Argonauts out of the Gulf South Conference.

“We came out shaky and really slow,” MSU guard Lamar Peters said. “We were especially slow on defense. We knew we had to pick it up on defense and when we picked it up on defense, it started to turn into offense for us. We were able to get out in transition and play for each other and make a lot of good plays for one another.”

Mississippi State seemed completely out of rhythm for much of the first half. West Florida built itself a 26-18 lead 10 minutes into the game as the Bulldogs found their bearings.

MSU had eight turnovers and nine team fouls through the contest’s first 9 minutes as the Argonauts flirted with pulling an upset. From that point on though, it was all Bulldogs. Mississippi State went on a 22-2 run down the stretch of the first half and by the intermission, had built a 44-31 lead and the game’s early struggles were nothing but a distant memory.

“The first 10 minutes, we were really hurt defensively because we were too stretched out,” MSU head coach Ben Howland said. “We weren’t keeping it compact enough. Our rule, against (West Florida) was to be no further than one step beyond the 3-point line. We kept getting stretched. That makes more space for them and they were carving us up.”

Mississippi State’s guard play led the way as MSU came back to life. Quinndary Weatherspoon, Nick Weatherspoon, Xavian Stapleton and Peters all scored in double figures.

Quinndary Weatherspoon had 15 points, Nick Weatherspoon had 14, Peters had 11 and Stapleton had 10.

“We’ve got a deep group of guards,” Peters said. “We have to show we are willing to do what it takes to win. We push each other and show each other what we’ve got to work on.

“(Thursday) we played for each other and it showed.”

Aric Holman also had a big night. The junior forward led MSU with 16 points and grabbed six rebounds.

“He had the best minutes he’s had by far this (preseason),” Howland said of Holman. “With Aric, it’s just about his motor and playing as hard as he can every second he’s in there.”

All told offensively, MSU finished the night shooting 52 percent from the floor. Most of that damage came inside the 3-point line.

“We were 28 of 42 on shots inside the 3-point line and some of our 3s were good shots and we just missed them,” Howland said.

Maybe Howland’s biggest takeaway from the evening though was that his team is improving. The night might have started slowly, but by the time the final buzzer sounded, the Bulldogs looked more like a team ready to tip off a season – something MSU will do next Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Alabama State.

“We’re getting better,” Howland said. “This was a positive step.”