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Bulldogs look for first conference road win

 

Brett Hudson

 

 

STARKVILLE -- Last season, Quinndary Weatherspoon was asked to score. The rebounding he contributed was a bonus from the Mississippi State guard, but there was no secret his No. 1 job was to score. 

 

At the request of MSU coach Ben Howland, Weatherspoon took on much more than just scoring for the first half of his junior season: after finishing as the Southeastern Conference's seventh-leading scorer last year, he has kept up a comparable scoring number (16.5 points per game to 14.5) while upping his assists per game from 2.1 to 4.2, the latter ranking fifth in the conference. 

 

If Howland has his way, Weatherspoon will be back to a pure scorer going forward with help from his younger brother, freshman guard Nick. 

 

A week ago, Howland looked at a MSU team that is outside of the top 150 nationally in offensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy's advanced numbers, one of just two teams in the conference that low, and 10th in the league in scoring per game. His answer was to relieve Quinndary Weatherspoon of as much ball handling responsibilities and give them to Nick, a process that is already underway. 

 

That new look backcourt takes to the road for the first time 7:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network) when the Bulldogs (14-4, 2-3 SEC) visit Alabama (12-6, 4-2 SEC). 

 

"He's going to handle the ball more, you'll see that. He's going to handle it more because I think he's making good decisions in practice and we've got to get (Quinndary) thinking more about scoring and less about handling the ball," Howland said. "I think our two primary ball handlers now will be Nick and (sophomore guard) Lamar (Peters)." 

 

The shift has nothing to do with Quinndary Weatherspoon's play in a heavier dose of point guard minutes, as he was in the midst of his best season as a Bulldog by offensive rating. Offensive rating is an advanced statistic that measures a player's offensive production by any means, be it field goals or free throws, assists or offensive rebounds and detracts for missed shots and turnovers, all on a per possession basis. 

 

Quinndary Weatherspoon's current offensive rating of 112.6 is not only the best of his career to date, it ranks seventh in the SEC among players used as often as he is (in between 20 and 27 percent of the team's possessions, according to KenPom). He's credited the passing responsibilities of a point guard for that boost. 

 

"Just trying to get everybody involved, try not to leave people out. Just make sure everybody's having fun on the floor when I'm at point," he said. "I try to get the team going first and then look to score. 

 

"When we need baskets, I just look for it. Overall, I try to help however I can and distribute the basketball so we can play as a team." 

 

That's about to change. 

 

Howland is looking for more points out of Quinndary Weatherspoon and even has an idea of how to get them. 

 

"We're not advancing the ball enough off the floor, for example. We get the ball, we've got to do a better job of moving the ball down," Howland said. "The quickest way to get it up quickly is through the pass, so we've got to get guys running so they can finish in transition and (Quinndary) is one of our best guys at doing that." 

 

With those ball handlers and sophomore guard Tyson Carter settled in as the starting shooting guard, that means Quinndary Weatherspoon will settle into more time at small forward. That will be the case even when Carter is off the floor, as that is when MSU often goes to playing Peters and Nick Weatherspoon together, which puts Quinndary at small forward once again. 

 

He may be a better fit for small forward anyway given his improved rebounding. His statistical improvement may be miniscule, from averaging 5.1 per game last year to currently averaging 5.6, but the fact that almost all of those extra rebounds are coming on the defensive end has made a difference. 

 

"In the past it's been a lot of offensive rebounds, but I've been picking it up on the defensive end this year," Quinndary Weatherspoon said. "We play small sometimes and Coach Howland needs all five guys to rebound, and I just headhunt the basketball. I tend to be in the right spot at the right time." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson

 

 

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