Former Starkville High star Tyson Carter has been a key piece of Mississippi State’s men’s basketball team for going on three years now.
However an unfortunate circumstance for one of his teammates is giving Carter one of his biggest opportunities yet as a Bulldog.
MSU (18-7, 6-6) rolls into Georgia (10-15, 1-11) Wednesday night for a 5:30 p.m. game and there’s a good chance Carter will be in the State starting five. It would be only Carter’s third start of this season and 32nd of his career should it happen. His head coach, Ben Howland, is completely comfortable letting Carter begin the game and get a good amount of playing time.
“He’s started a lot of games for us anyway both as a sophomore and as a freshman, so he's very experienced,” Howland said Tuesday after Mississippi State’s practice. “Tyson is probably one of the best conditioned guys on our team. You talk about all the running we do in the preseason and all that. He never gets tired. He’s in great physical condition so he can play a lot of minutes.”
Carter’s increasing role is at the expense of usual starting guard Nick Weatherspoon. Just moments before MSU’s eventual win this past Saturday at Arkansas, Mississippi State released a statement saying that Weatherspoon was suspended. Weatherspoon didn’t play against the Razorbacks and no timetable was given for his return.
Assuming Weatherspoon is indeed again out for Wednesday night's game, it’ll of course be a blow for State to not have its fourth-leading scorer (9.6 points per game) and perhaps best on-ball defender. However Carter softens the punch.
Just this past Saturday, Carter shined in Weatherspoon’s absence at Arkansas as he scored a personal season high of 18 points and led the Bulldogs in assists with four. Perhaps the most impressive part of Carter’s scoring production was that the usual sharp shooter didn’t hit a single 3-pointer and instead, displayed more of an all-around game.
“What I’m excited about is that he’s doing a really good job playing defensively as well as offensively,” Howland said of Carter. “He’s got a really nice floater that he’s able to score on in the paint. He had a couple of run-out dunks where his teammates did a great job of finding him, but he created a lot. He made big free throws down the stretch when they were fouling us, so he did a lot of good things at both ends of the floor and that’s the key about being a complete player.”
Despite all of his capability, Carter won’t be forced to fully bear the load of Weatherspoon’s absence tonight and for however long Weatherspoon remains out. Howland said Tuesday that Carter, Robert Woodard II, Aric Holman and Keyshawn Feazell would all likely see increased minutes to make up for Weatherspoon being out of action.
All of those guys and the rest of Mississippi State’s squad will be looking for MSU’s third-straight victory tonight and second-straight win on the road.
It looks at first glance like a triumph that State should get. Georgia is reeling having lost 10 of its last 11 games and six in a row. Howland says his goal heading into Wednesday night’s contest is to drill into his team’s minds that Georgia still isn’t to be taken lightly.
Howland points his team to Georgia’s last game when it took No. 13 LSU down to the wire before ultimately dropping a four-point decision. Yes, Georgia’s record isn’t pretty, but the Athens-based Bulldogs can still be dangerous.
Howland will be preaching that to Carter and all the rest prior to Wednesday night’s tip.
“If we don’t come and play at our very best, they’ll beat us,” Howland said. “The margin of error is so small. That’s something that I’ll be hammering home (to our team).”