Howland warns MSU supporters about Wofford

Ben Howland

Staff Writer

Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland wants to make sure everyone knows.

From his players to the fans coming to the game to those watching at home, Howland is adamant that everyone gets informed as to how good tonight's MSU can be.

Howland’s No. 17 Bulldogs (9-1) host Wofford (9-3) Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Mississippi State is already coming off of several wins against premier competition, but Howland wants to ensure no one is sleeping on tonight’s affair against the Terriers.

“This is a really huge game for us,” Howland said of tonight’s tilt against Wofford. “They’re good. They beat North Carolina at North Carolina last year. They beat Georgia Tech a year ago. They beat South Carolina this year by 20. You go watch their tapes from this year, (and) it’s a tie game at Oklahoma with 10 minutes to go. They’re up three with 10 minutes to go at Kansas. Those are games they lost. They have three losses – at Oklahoma, at Kansas and North Carolina, which was a four-point game with 7 minutes to go. These guys are a problem.”

One must only look at the NCAA’s NET rankings to see Howland is correct. The NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool), which is now used by the NCAA to select the NCAA Tournament field at the end of the season, has Wofford as the third-highest ranked team MSU has played this season. Cincinnati and Arizona State are only two opponents from earlier in the season for the Bulldogs that are higher in the NET rankings.

Knowing that, Howland wants every advantage available to his MSU team Wednesday night. Howland was appreciative of the large crowd that helped the Bulldogs defeat Cincinnati this past Saturday night and he’s hoping for similar aid tonight inside the Humphrey Coliseum.

“My big thing is that we need to get as many people to the game (tonight) as possible,” Howland said. “One of the things, watching that game against Cincinnati, which I watched two or three times, our crowd was awesome. It was a great atmosphere. It made a huge difference for our ability to be successful. So I’m so appreciative of everyone that came to the game Saturday and if everyone can make it here (tonight), it’s going to be huge for our team as we march forward and hope to have a really special year this year.”

Wofford boasts several threats as the Terriers come to Starkville seeking to upset MSU. Senior guard Fletcher Magee is perhaps Wofford’s best player. He averages 17.3 points per game. He’s one of the country’s best outside shooters.

“McGee will wind up by the end of the year having the second-most 3-pointers made in the history of college basketball,” Howland said.

Forward Cameron Jackson and guard Nathan Hoover are also having great years for the Terriers. Jackson nearly averages a double-double with 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Hoover is averaging 13.3 points per contest.

“Jackson scores on everybody,” Howland said. “He scores on every single team with ease that he plays against.

“Hoover had nine 3s in the South Carolina game and can really shoot.”

So it looks to be a tough test indeed Wednesday night for MSU. Yet it’s far from the Bulldogs’ first big challenge this season. So far, save for a loss to Arizona State, Mississippi State has conquered them all. MSU hopes to keep right on rolling Wednesday night, no matter how difficult it may be.

“Bottom line is (games like Wednesday’s are) preparing us for what’s most important and that’s the SEC (schedule),” Howland said. “Every night in the SEC is going to be a monster. There are no breaks. Every game is difficult.

“I just want to educate and make sure everyone knows how good (Wofford is). It’s going to be a fun team to watch. These guys can shoot, they play tough defense, they’re rebounding and are one of the top 25 rebounding teams in the country. It’s a very good team.”