Datcher plays well in MSU men's exhibition loss

MSU's E.J. Datcher (45) had 12 points and six rebounds on Sunday.
Staff Writer

Mississippi State men’s basketball coach Ben Howland really wasn’t surprised to see sophomore forward E.J. Datcher have a good game on Sunday.

Based on what he witnessed in practice on Saturday, Howland believed Datcher could carry it over and he did.

Datcher hit six of his eight shot attempts from the field for 12 points and also had six rebounds to lead the Bulldogs in both categories during a 76-72 exhibition loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Humphrey Coliseum.

After making five of six field goals in practice on Saturday, Datcher kept the hot hand in warm ups and during Sunday’s game.

“In practice, I felt good knocking down my shots,” Datcher said. “I came out in warm ups (Sunday) and I was hitting a lot of shots. I had a lot of confidence in my shot (Sunday) and I took a lot of open shots.”

The native of Harpersville, Alabama, could be ready to step up for MSU in 2017-18 after only averaging one point per game last season.

Howland said it just took some time for Datcher to develop once arriving from Vincent High School.

“He was really green when he got here,” Howland said. “He’s from about the smallest 1A there is in Alabama. To go from there to SEC was a big jump for him. I was really excited about his activity (Sunday) and his ability to shoot the ball. I thought he did some good things.

“E.J. is improving and I’m excited about E.J. because his hard work is paying off for him.”

The Bulldogs wouldn’t normally practice on the day prior to a game, but they went two hours on Saturday.

That’s when Howland said the light seemed to start coming on for Datcher and on Sunday, he called him “an incredible bright spot” along with Eli Wright and Keyshawn Feazell. Wright and Feazell added 10 points each for MSU.

The Bulldogs fell behind the Cornhuskers 57-34 with 17:04 remaining of the game, then cut the margin to a one-possession game at 73-70 with 15.8 seconds left before Nebraska clinched the four-point victory.

“We have a lot of things we need to improve on to be the team we want to be,” Howland said.

Howland said the exhibition allowed MSU to see where it needed to improve, but Sunday was not all about the game. It came together on Wednesday when the Bulldogs received an NCAA waiver to play for charity and benefit the victims of Hurricane Irma.

“I can’t thank Nebraska and their basketball program enough for coming down here and help us raise money,” Howland said. “To have people come and give money to this great cause was great. I’m thankful for crowd to be here on such short notice.”

Both head coaches spoke to the crowd prior to tipoff and expressed their opinion on how important it was to play the game.

Nebraska coach Tim Miles said the trip to Starkville was worth it.

“We were happy to be here and it was important for us to be here,” Miles said. “(Sunday) was about something bigger than basketball.”

Mississippi State has one more exhibition game on November 2 against West Florida before opening the season on November 10 against Alabama State.