Senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon goes up for two of his 22 points in the No. 18 Mississippi State men’s basketball team’s 77-59 victory against Hartford on Sunday at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville. Photo by: Blake Williams/MSU Athletic Media Relations
November 12, 2018 10:15:41 AM
STARKVILLE -- If nothing else, the opening minutes of Sunday's Mississippi State men's basketball game had a discernible rhythm: MSU would miss a shot and spend the next 30 seconds defending.
Hartford milked every second of the shot clock on its opening possessions, attempting to keep an athletic opponent stagnant -- and it worked, as MSU attempted just four shots in the first three minutes, 15 seconds.
Then the No. 18 Bulldogs took matters into their own hands. Or, more literally, the ball into their own hands.
A team as dangerous as the Bulldogs (2-0) is best when those weapons are roaming free and fast, and when Hartford held the ball too long for them to do it, they simply took the ball away. Fifteen steals helped jumpstart the offense in a 77-59 win over Hartford Sunday.
"We stick to our gameplan, we tried to speed them up while they're being patient because that's the pace we're used to playing at," said senior forward Aric Holman, who claimed one of those steals.
The first of point guard Lamar Peters' two steals was the one that opened the floodgates: his jump into the passing lane gave him an uncontested path to the rim for a dunk, the first of his eight points. From there, the tempo was set: that dunk was the start of an 11-0 run over four minutes.
That run was also the start of balanced scoring: those 11 points were spread through five players. All in all, Quinndary Weatherspoon led the team with 22 points, joined in double figures by 14 from junior guard Tyson Carter, 12 from Holman and 10 from sophomore guard Nick Weatherspoon.
"We're shooting the ball well, we have guys that can handle the ball and we know how to put our teammates in a position to score," Carter said.
Quinndary Weatherspoon also led the team with six steals and was far from the only productive guard in that category: two from Nick Weatherspoon, two from Peters and two from Carter.
The activity in the perimeter was more than just what was needed to put Hartford (0-3) on the back heel; it saved them from a draining game in the middle of a five games in 13 days stretch.
"I expected them to be very patient, playing on the road," MSU coach Ben Howland said. "They took 20 shots in the first half, which means you're on defense a lot and when you quick shoot it, which we did at times, then all of a sudden you're back on defense again."
Before long, prolonged defensive stands were gone -- and so were the Hawks.
Now the Bulldogs recede from the spotlight for nearly a week. MSU hosts Long Beach State 8 p.m. Friday (SEC Network) before immediately going off to Las Vegas for the MGM Resorts Main Event. Taking on that stretch with a 2-0 record and a scoring differential of plus-46 may be a boost for some; for these Bulldogs, it is nothing out of the ordinary.
"We weren't that happy in the locker room after an 18-point win, which tells you that we have high expectations internally, the players do," Howland said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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