Bulldogs open men's basketball season with high expectations

Mississippi State's Tyson Carter (23)

Staff Writer

In a season with high expectations, the No. 18 Mississippi State men’s basketball team is off and running.

The Bulldogs will host Austin Peay Friday night at 6:30 p.m. to begin the 2018-19 campaign. MSU is coming off a 25-12 season that saw the team advance to the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament, however tonight begins a year in which the Bulldogs have their sights set much higher as they look to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade.

“I’m excited about it,” MSU guard and former Starkville High School standout Tyson Carter said of starting the season. “I think we have a lot of weapons this year and a lot of talent. I feel like we’re going to be successful this year.”

First up for Mississippi State to begin its challenging slate is Friday night’s matchup against the Governors. Austin Peay actually already opened up its season, blowing out Oakland City 114-53 on Tuesday.

MSU head coach Ben Howland says the 114-point output by the Governors in their opener displays how potent they can be offensively.

“They are a good shooting team and they shot it very well from the perimeter (on Tuesday),” Howland said. “They also did a really good job at transition and pushing the ball. They got a lot of easy baskets in transition against Oakland City. They have a good blend and they have a number of good shooters that can put the ball in the basket.”

Seven different Austin Peay players scored in double figures in the team’s opener. That group was led by starting forward Terry Taylor. Howland says the Bulldogs will have their hands full with Taylor Friday night.

“He had an outstanding freshman year (last season),” Howland said. “He was freshman of the year in the (Ohio Valley Conference). He’s 6 feet and 7 inches tall and 225 pounds. He can step out and shoot 3s as well as score around the basket. He has excellent hands and is a high-level player.”

The good news for Mississippi State is that the Bulldogs look to be at full strength Friday night as they look to limit Taylor and the Governors and get their own season off on the right foot. Senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon missed MSU’s exhibition game on Sunday due to an injured medial collateral ligament in his knee, but he returned to practice on Tuesday and is expected to play tonight. That’s big news for Mississippi State as Weatherspoon was the team’s leading scorer a season ago with his 14.4 points averaged per game.

The Bulldogs would love to get similar or better production out of Weatherspoon this season and see more development from all their returning players and also get contributions from this year’s exciting newcomers. If that happens, perhaps this indeed can be the season MSU ends its long NCAA Tournament drought.

The Bulldogs tasted some March success last year with their NIT run. Senior forward Aric Holman said that doesn’t feel like all that long ago, but a new season has quickly arrived. Now it’s on MSU to try and go out and make the most of it.

“It feels like we just ended (last season) with us having the extended season last year,” Holman said. “For it to be back this fast, I’m excited and ready to go.”