STARKVILLE — Lamar Peters, usually good for 10 shot attempts per game, took only three Saturday against BYU. Yet Mississippi State found itself in a fast-paced game with the Cougars, resulting in 70 shots compared to the average of 59.
Someone had to take the extra shots, and senior forward Aric Holman was that person.
Holman got involved early, taking eight of No. 19 MSU’s first 17 shots, and never slowed down. His season-high 18 shots led to a season-high 28 points in the Bulldogs’ 103-81 win Saturday.
Fellow senior Quinndary Weatherspoon added 27 points, helping MSU reach 100 points for the first time since Dec. 30, 2017.
“When you go 20-for-31 from the field from your two seniors, that’s positive,” MSU coach Ben Howland said.
Ado’s return impactful
Sophomore forward Abdul Ado was out with a rib injury as MSU (12-1) found a way through its four-point win over Wright State. There were many factors for the struggles of that win, but Ado’s absence was one of them.
His return to the fold came with impeccable timing, as MSU faced who Howland believes is one of the nation’s best big man, Yoeli Childs. Childs lived up to the billing with 25 points, but fell well short of his usual rebounding production with Ado in his way.
Childs entered Saturday averaging 10.1 rebounds per game but only had two against MSU. It played a big factor the Bulldogs outrebounding BYU by nine; Ado also had four blocks, two assists and seven turnovers.
“I was excited by Abdul Ado,” Howland said. “I thought his five shots, looking to be more aggressive to score, those were big for us today.”
Woodard, Weatherspoon fall
Both freshman forward Robert Woodard and sophomore guard Nick Weatherspoon both injured their ankles in the game. Weatherspoon ultimately came back to the game on the way to 11 points, one rebound, two assists and two steals in 24 minutes.
Woodard, the former Columbus High School Falcon, got injured in the first half and did not play in the second half. Howland said he hoped it would be a minor injury, needing just a few days to recover. MSU does not play again until Jan. 8 when it opens Southeastern Conference play at South Carolina.
True test coming
Saturday’s win sent MSU to SEC play with a 12-1 record, five wins against top 100 teams in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) Metric and one top 50 win. MSU is No. 18 in that metric, which the NCAA is using to replace Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) for its Selection Committee.
Last year’s team also got through non-conference play with a 12-1 record, as well, but Holman and Howland both admit this feels different given the quality of opponent. Now all that’s left is to test that mettle against a surging SEC.
“We have an all-around team. We have multiple guys that can do things,” Quinndary Weatherspoon said.
Howland added, “This is obviously the best team we’ve had in my tenure here and this team has the potential to do something really special, in my opinion, if we continue to grind away and work hard. Being 12-1 with the schedule we had this year, it was daunting.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson