Opening Statement by Coach Howland:
"First of all I was really pleased with our effort. I think we did a good job tonight.
"(Fort Valley State) came out and really shot the ball well early. We did not have a great scouting report on these guys because a lot of their players are new to their school. So, we had nothing to base any kind of research on. We didn't have a good feel about what they do. I thought early on they made their first five shots. We were a little anxious early on, which is natural in your first game. That is why we are playing a game under the lights for the first time. I thought, as the game wore on, we did a really good job on both ends of the floor.
"I love to see 26 assists. 26 assists on 37 made baskets. That is a huge stat. That means we are playing unselfishly and sharing the basketball. I thought the rebounding advantage, the field goal against percent defense are all things we want to do night in, night out. We beat them by 20 on the boards because we are holding them to one shot for the most part. I told Chicken before the game to get 10 rebounds and he did. I thought Johnny (Zuppardo) did a good job getting 10 rebounds as well.
"Q (Quinndary Weatherspoon) had a great first half. He looks so comfortable out there for a kid who is a freshman. You could see why he was listed as one of the top 20 under the radar freshmen in the country the other day in the CBSSportsLine.com article by John Rothstein.
"And we got into foul trouble. Travis Daniels had one foul , one foul, none in the first half in our scrimmage against UAB. And today, he is in foul trouble right away. So, we will study the film and see what the issues are. It is my fault for not taking him out with four fouls. He is a senior and he knows he has four fouls but sure enough on the next play he draws his fifth foul. Obviously, that won't happen in a real game. I wanted to test him out and see if he could make that adjustment.
"The one thing that I love in a team is to have multiple guys in double figures (in points). Tonight, we had 6 players in double figures. That is a beautiful thing.
"I.J. was terrific tonight, 17 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 steals. That was a great line by him.
"Gavin again was shooting like he does every day in practice, 6-for-6, a number that were in transition where he is just out-running the opponent.
"I thought we got a lot out of our transition offense tonight."
Did you want to see I.J. become more aggressive shooting the ball?
"I just wanted him to improve in every aspect of his game. He was the one guy returning on the team that had a positive assist to turnover ratio.So, number 1 distributing the ball and taking care of it. I think he is stronger than he was a year ago. I think the work that he has done in the performance center, both lifting and eating better, taking care of himself has really paid dividends for him.
"He took a couple of shots that were a little questionable but I want him to be aggressive. We are trying to score points here. We are trying to push the ball and be aggressive on offense. And he is a very good shooter. We are spending a lot of time, as we have from day one, working on shooting, working on our form, getting a lot of shots and doing it right. He shot it great the last two days in shooting. Each kid came in Wednesday and Thursday morning for a half an hour and got up extra shots."
How do you think Quinndary did at the point when I.J. was out?
"I thought he did a great job. He was much better tonight then he was in the scrimmage. In the scrimmage game he had 9 turnovers. Tonight, he only had 2. But he is really smooth and has a great feel for the game. He shot it well. You can see that you are going to be able to throw him into pressure situations.
"He got a little loose in the second half. He threw a one-handed cross court pass that was not under control. But for the most part I thought he did a great job. I am really excited about Q. I think he has an unbelievably bright future ahead of him."
I think Wednesday you talked about getting buckets in transition after misses. I believe you had 5 or 6 tonight. Was that especially pleasing for you?
"Yeah, it was. I think at one time in the first half by assistants said that we had four. As a coach, that is an unbelievable back breaker. If you are allowing a team to score on you after you have scored a layup or an easy shot, that is not good. So, when you are able to do that, that is great."
How is Malik's progress coming along?
"What is happening with Malik is he gets his cast removed November 11th, which is Wednesday. They will do another MRI in his ligament in his big toe and determine how well it has healed. We are expecting that it healed well. We are being very precautionary with this cast. We wanted to make sure he wasn't waling around without it on. A lot of times you give these guys boots to wear and they go home and take the boot off. Then they fall and trip. If this thing gets worst instead of healing, then it is surgery and four months of healing and the season is over. Dak Prescott had the same thing. That is why he redshirted one year. So, I think the doctor made a very sound decision to not give him a chance of making a mistake or any problem. We are fully expecting him to (heal). Give him credit, he has pictures of it, he is (downstairs) with Coach Deets. They are downstairs (in the equipment that simulates him being) at 10,000 feet with a mask on. He is really working hard right now keeping his conditioning up so that when he comes back he has not lost any conditioning. He is going through two-a-days."
Fallou played 21 minutes. What are your thoughts about how he did?
"I thought he did a great job, especially defensively. He came in and he is a very good defensive presence. He was our best player rotating and helping on drives. I was really pleased overall with his defensive intensity and his physicality. He came in and gave us very good minutes, 4 rebounds, 5 points, didn't have a turnover.
"And we needed him because Gavin was in foul trouble. Gavin's first foul was jumping on a guy, which was a hustle play that was called against him. His second foul was a moving screen. His third foul was a loose ball foul. He didn't get one foul defensively."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network.