Mississippi State freshman Robert Woodard II, a former standout at Columbus High School, and classmate Reggie Perry combined for 22 points Sunday in a victory against Georgia Southwestern in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Mississippi State Athletic Media Relations
November 5, 2018 10:39:20 AM
STARKVILLE -- Two of Mississippi State's prized freshmen, Robert Woodard and Reggie Perry, waited all of five minutes to check into their first exhibition game as Bulldogs, immediately turning a small starting lineup into a well-rounded threat.
That versatility was on display throughout Woodard's 23 minutes and Perry's 18, leading both to scoring and rebounding opportunities galore.
The two combined for 22 points and 16 rebounds in MSU's 88-57 win over Georgia Southwestern; Sunday's win was just an exhibition, but with the regular season beginning in less than a week, it did provide a window into how the No. 18 Bulldogs' freshmen class will influence a team with NCAA tournament expectations.
"Those guys are going to be important mainstays. You look at guys like Robert and Reggie, I haven't seen many freshmen that look like that. They don't look like your normal freshmen, they have men's bodies right now. They have good genes -- good Bulldog genes -- because they're both built like men and they're only going to get better."
Howland is referencing both players being second-generation Bulldogs, Robert Woodard being the son of Robert Woodard and Reggie Perry being Al Perry's son.
Those physical skill sets were put to use early and often. Woodard was inserted into the game as a small forward and Perry in the frontcourt as the power forward; Woodard would later move to power forward as part of a smaller lineup. Woodard's ability to go to power forward allows MSU to put three players capable of running point guard on the floor, as it did with Lamar Peters, Nick Weatherspoon and Tyson Carter on the floor in this lineup.
Perry stayed at power forward, but spreading his 245 pounds over his 6-foot-10 frame allows him to be mobile on the perimeter, which MSU used on both offense and defense.
It bears repeating that these are freshmen playing an opponent for the first time. This level of comfort should not be easily attained, but they found it through practice.
"We practice switching things up, switching positions in practice so when we get on the court, it's second nature," Woodard said. "Moving around and having that feel for the game is what we work on."
Perry added, "There's days where we go in and play a certain position and the next day we play another one. It's comfortable for us."
The use of freshmen to swing lineups may have been rooted in necessity in Quinndary Weatherspoon's absence. Howland said he got hurt in practice last week when his foot got stepped on; the way his foot turned, Howland feared a traumatic injury, but he said Quinndary Weatherspoon is already physically active and on pace to return to practice in the middle of this week. Howland expects him to be ready for the regular season opener Friday against Austin Peay.
But in their time on the floor, those freshmen showed they can be the pivotal pieces for weeks and months to come.
Woodard was 2-for-3 from 3-point range in scoring 10 points, also adding four rebounds, an assist and a steal. Perry was 5-for-7 from the field with 12 rebounds, including four of MSU's eight offensive rebounds.
They were two of five Bulldogs to score in double figures, joined by Peters (17), Carter (15) and forward Aric Holman (16); Peters had five assists and Holman had three, the latter also adding six rebounds.
Even in that slew of productive performances, freshmen stood out. Perry's floor percentage -- a measure of how many possessions a player participated in ended with at least one point -- ended at an impressive 60.4 percent, second only to Holman.
"I feel like we're going to get better as the year goes on," Perry said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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