November 7, 2013 1:32:06 AM
STARKVILLE -- The nerves were there.
Inside, Breanna Richardson was just like any other freshman Monday night playing in her first college game. But those butterflies disappeared as soon as the 6-foot-1 forward from Conyers, Ga., hit her first basket -- a shot from the low block off a pass from Savannah Carter -- 50 seconds into her debut in a Mississippi State uniform.
Nearly two hours later, Richardson could take pride in the fact she didn't play like a freshman in a 75-44 victory against Shorter in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum. Richardson finished second on the team with 16 points and added six rebounds and six steals to help MSU pass its first test of the season.
"Bre's motor was running pretty high," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. "This is what we need out of her and Ketara (Chapel), that ability to get out on the perimeter and deny and be a wrecker of everybody else's offense that flows through that trailing post player. We talk about that every day in practice, but I thought she really brought that and did a nice job. She got her hands on and deflected balls, as well as stole them. Her and Ketara are exactly what we need at the four (power forward). I thought she looked comfortable."
Schaefer hopes Richardson can duplicate that effort when the lights come on for real at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the season opener at Houston.
Richardson was 6 of 8 from the field, and all but one of her field goals -- a 3-pointer -- was from in the paint area. The only negatives on her stat sheet was a 3-for-8 showing from the free-throw line and four turnovers.
"I was attacking off the hole and getting offensive rebounds for putbacks," Richardson said. "I should have made more free throws and had more points, but it was a team effort. Wherever the team needed me, I just play my role."
Schaefer can live with the turnovers from "newbies" like Richardson and the other three healthy newcomers to the program. His hope is Richardson and classmate Chapel, who played only 15 minutes as she recovers from being sick, can improve the Bulldogs' production from the forward positions.
Richardson's versatility gives her a chance to deliver double-digit totals every night. She said Wednesday at the team's media day that the coaches have made their expectations clear to her, so she knows she won't be able to ease into the action. With opponents likely set to focus on junior returners Martha Alwal and Kendra Grant, MSU will need other players to emerge to take the pressure off Alwal and Grant.
"I understand different positions and the roles I have to take on as a player on offense for us to succeed," Richardson said.
Richardson anticipates the nerves being there Friday night, too. They might be there today when she and the team fly to Houston to get ready for their opener. It will be Richardson's first flight, so she will have to put that anxiety aside -- just like she did Monday in her first game as a Bulldog -- to settle down and enjoy the ride.
"I just accepted the challenge and I just played to the best of my ability," Richardson said.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.