Mississippi State’s Tyson Carter drives past Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. in their exhibition game Sunday at Humphrey Coliseum. Carter, a former standout at Starkville High School, had five points and three assists in 18 minutes in a 76-72 loss. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
October 23, 2017 11:08:14 AM
STARKVILLE -- The experience of playing a live game in front of a crowd against a Power 5 conference team was what Ben Howland wanted.
That's why the Mississippi State's men's basketball coach isn't going to worry about a run that put his team down 16 at halftime or the comeback that nearly saw MSU come all of the way back from a 23-point deficit. Howland simply wanted the by-product of whatever came.
"This will make our practices better because our guys will be able to see what we can do better," Howland said.
MSU saw plenty to build on Sunday in a 76-72 loss to Nebraska in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum.
The room for improvement will begin on defense, where the Bulldogs might have seen progress by the middle of the game.
Nebraska built a 48-32 halftime lead by shooting 17-for-33 (51.5 percent) from the field. The Cornhuskers were 8-for-14 from 3-point range (57.1 percent), while MSU was 0-for-6.
"We gambled way too much defensively," Howland said. "We've got to become more solid, less gambling defensively, but overall I thought this was a great experience as we grow and we get ready for our opener Nov. 10.
"I don't know how many times we're gambling for steals, reaching in, calling someone else to help because we're out of position and all of a sudden they're getting behind us."
MSU adjusted to a less aggressive defense in the second half. Nebraska shot only 11-for-29 from the field (37.9 percent) and missed all 13 of its 3-pointers. Unfortunately, MSU couldn't climb all of the way out of the hole thanks in part to a 14-for-33 shooting performance (42.4). The Bulldogs were 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
MSU was more effective sitting back and picking spots to go for steals. As a result, it had six steals in the final 20 minutes compared to one in the first half.
A layup by Lamar Peters with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining capped a 15-6 run that helped MSU cut the deficit to 71-66. The Bulldogs had two steals in that span.
MSU sophomore guard Eli Wright said the challenge for the Bulldogs is to have that success on defense in the first half. Wright said MSU struggled with the same thing last season.
Wright came off the bench and had 10 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 25 minutes. He was one of three bright spots Howland identified. Forward E.J. Datcher added 12 points, six rebounds, and two blocked shots in 19 minutes off the bench. Wright and Datcher averaged 13.1 and 7.4 minutes per game last season.
Freshman KeyShawn Feazell also had a strong game with 10 points (5-for-5 shooting) in 15 minutes.
"I really like this team, a lot. I like our kids," Howland said. "We're going to learn from this, we're going to get better from this. That's why I was so excited to play this."
Said Nebraska coach Tim Miles, "I saw a very talented, athletic team. I thought the perimeter guys were really good and they'll shoot the three better than that. I think they're great in transition."
The teams played the game after receiving a waiver from the NCAA to raise money for Hurricane Irma relief. Admission to the game was free, MSU asked fans for a donation as they entered. Howland and Miles gave $2,500 each to the fund.
Not including contributions of coaches and boosters, an unofficial tally said the teams raised $12,000. The official total will be released in the next few days.
As for MSU, Howland said the exhibition will impact how MSU practices the rest of the preseason. MSU will have a closed-door scrimmage against Texas Tech in Fort Worth, Texas, before it plays host to West Florida at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2.
MSU will play host to Alabama State at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, in the first game of a doubleheader with the MSU women's basketball team. The MSU women will play host to Virginia at 8 p.m.
"Our guys are going to be able to see we have a lot of things to improve on to be the team we want to be," Howland said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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