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Howland excited to have Nebraska coming to Starkville


Brett Hudson



STARKVILLE -- It started with a phone call to an old friend, Mark Boehm. 


Boehm and Mississippi State men's basketball coach Ben Howland knew each other from Howland's days as men's basketball coach at Pittsburgh from 1999-2003. When Howland saw the opportunity to get a waiver from the NCAA to play an extra preseason scrimmage, he called Boehm, who is now in the athletic department at Nebraska. 


A few hours later, an agreement had been finalized to have Nebraska play MSU at 1 p.m. Sunday at Humphrey Coliseum. 


MSU will still play host to West Florida at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, in an exhibition game. 


"There's so many things that had to come together so quick for this to happen, it's miraculous," Howland said. "I have to thank the University of Nebraska and their basketball program, (Nebraska) Coach (Tim) Miles, (Boehm), and Bill Moos, their new athletic director, who was phenomenal to work with. 


"It doesn't count as a win or loss, but we're both going to benefit from playing each other, so I thought it was a great idea." 


Howland said the biggest benefit will be the money to be raised for Hurricane Irma relief. Admission to the game is free, but Howland and MSU ask fans make a donation to help victims of the most intense Atlantic hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005, and the first major hurricane to make landfall in the state of Florida since Wilma in 2005. 


Howland said Nebraska is paying for its trip and won't receive help, which means more money to hurricane relief. 


Howland also likes that the game will be in Mississippi because it is closer to the areas that will benefit. 


"All our fans are going to be in town (for the football game against Kentucky on Saturday) and we're raising money for a very important cause. People are devastated by this hurricane," Howland said. "That's one of my big emphases here is the reason we're doing this: it gives our fans and our people here a chance to give back. We're helping a number of families from Mississippi that have been affected by this, Mississippi State families." 


The game also will benefit the teams. Howland's first look at Nebraska's roster revealed a familiar name: James Palmer Jr., a transfer guard from Miami, who scored 14 points against MSU in 2015, Howland's first season at the school. Nebraska also has Georgetown transfer forward Isaac Copeland. 


A look at film revealed forced Howland to call Miles and ask him how he has gotten the Cornhuskers into "mid-season form" offensively. Miles told Howland the Cornhuskers ran full-offense drills with no defense for the entire summer to get ahead of schedule. 


That time has Nebraska with 28 offensive sets already installed. Howland said MSU has five or six. Howland said he had to install out-of-bounds plays and zone plays Thursday just to get them in for the Nebraska scrimmage. 


"It's incredible. We have five or six sets in, not even close to where they are," Howland said. "This will be a great experience for our young team to play a team that's already on all cylinders." 




More waiting for Ado 


The debut of MSU forward Abdul Ado is going to take a few more weeks. 


The forward injured his quadriceps in practice and likely will miss both exhibition games. The hope is he will be ready to play in the regular season opener against Alabama State at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Humphrey Coliseum. Howland said Ado had an MRI that revealed the injury wasn't as bad as it could have been. 


"I'm very disappointed for our team that Abdul's not going to be able to play. That's a significant loss," Howland said. "This happened on the last sprint of conditioning in practice, on the very last sprint. I was sick to my gut all night after. 


"Defensively is where Abdul is way ahead of any other big in our program, it's not even close. That's where we're going to miss him." 


Freshman guard Nick Weatherspoon reportedly suffered an ankle injury. Howland said Weatherspoon would practice in non-contact fashion today. 




MSU picked 12th in SEC 


A year after finishing 12th in the Southeastern Conference with a 6-12 record, MSU was picked to do the same this year by the media at SEC Media Day, finishing ahead of Tennessee and LSU. 


"It doesn't matter," Howland said. "I think it speaks to the strength of our league. If we're healthy, I think we're going to be a competitive team in this league. 


"I hope that's a motivating thing for our players, what the media thinks of you." 


MSU guard Quinndary Weatherspoon was named preseason second-team All-SEC team after averaging 16.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game last season. 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson



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