Bulldogs open men's basketball season with win at home

Lamar Peters, left, drives to the basket for Mississippi State.

Staff Writer

With a top-20 ranking and high expectations, the Mississippi State Bulldogs got their 2018-19 basketball season underway on Friday night against Austin Peay.

MSU couldn’t have asked for a much better start.

The Bulldogs shot 57.8 percent from the field on a strong offensive night to coast to a 95-67 win over the Governors.

“I think we played good (offensively),” MSU guard Quinndary Weatherspoon said. “We didn’t shoot the 3-ball well, but we put up 95 points even though we only shot 28 percent (from 3-point range). That just goes to show that we can score more than one way.”

Weatherspoon led the charge for the Bulldogs against Austin Peay (1-1). The senior led all scorers with 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The team’s other Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s little brother Nick, scored 19 points of his own on 6-of-10 shooting including a 3-for-6 showing from beyond the arc.

Three other Bulldogs scored in double figures including former Starkville High School player Tyson Carter with 12 points, Abdul Ado with 11 and Aric Holman with 10. Holman also pulled down 10 rebounds for his 10th career double-double.

Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland enjoyed seeing his team’s offensive efficiency, even with some hiccups from long range where the Bulldogs were only 7-for-25 as a squad.

“We missed some open 3s that we will make, but I think part of it was we were just playing so hard and playing tired at times with some of our shooting, but to score 95 points and not shoot it well from 3 is a positive," Howland said.

State also shined on the defensive end. Austin Peay scored 114 points and shot nearly 60 percent from the field in its season opener on Tuesday, but the Bulldogs held the Governors in check on Friday.

“I thought our guys did a good job defensively,” Howland said. “You look at the numbers and to hold them to 39 percent (shooting from the field) and (21.4 percent from 3-point range), that was very good.

“We put pressure on them and forced nine steals. We had six blocks.”

On a night where many things went right for Mississippi State, it also received solid debuts from a pair of highly-regarded freshmen. Reggie Perry and Robert Woodard each got their first collegiate playing time for the Bulldogs and had their moments.

Woodard scored eight points and brought down five rebounds. Perry scored five points with one board.

“Robert and Reggie did a fine job in their first performance,” Howland said. “It was really physical out there, so there’s a new level of physicality for them, especially for Reggie with him being an inside player.”

Mississippi State never trailed in the game. Quinndary Weatherspoon made a layup on MSU’s opening possession and the Bulldogs essentially rolled from there.

Austin Peay did surge a bit late in the first half. With 4:37 left before the intermission, the Governors were within four points of the Bulldogs. However MSU went on a 19-7 run to head to the locker room at the break up 50-34. Mississippi State then went on to lead by double digits for the remainder of the game.

The Bulldogs will look for similar success when they return to action. MSU will try to move to 2-0 this season when State hosts Hartford on Sunday at 4 p.m.