Monday’s matchup in the Mississippi Coliseum was a renewal of a series dormant since March 2001, and first of a four-game contract. Mississippi State is 7-3 and now owns a 15-4 lead over Southern Mississippi, which left Jackson 3-6.
And, left shelled and shocked. The Bulldogs bombed a program record 17 three-point baskets, out of 29 attempts. Six of those longballs fell during that 35-0 surge which itself may be some sort of record.
Ben Howland doesn’t coach his club to live or die by the three-pointer. But as Bulldogs moved the ball around and got good looks, he left that green light glowing. “The unselfishness, the way we shared the ball. And obviously the way we shot was pretty incredible.”
“You can’t pass up an open shot,” said guard Lamar Peters, who accounted for four of the treys and hit three of them in succession during the run. “We were making the extra pass. I was fortunate to knock them down, and that’s just what I do.”
Peters finished with 15 points. That was still one-less than guard Quinndary Weatherspoon at 16, who was even more arc-efficient in making all four of his attempts. The Canton native also had his own cheering section among the announced 4,031 crowd of, Howland guesstimated, at least a hundred.
“It felt good,” said Weatherspoon. “Especially being back in Jackson, and playing here a couple of times in front of fans that don’t normally get to see me in Starkville.”
Guard Tyson Carter added three treys and 11 points, and even walk-on Drew Davis took advantage of his five mop-up minutes to throw in a pair from the arc. Another local-angle story went to guard Xavian Stapleton, a Flora product who spent one year at Louisiana Tech; then another as a MSU transfer recovering from two knee surgeries.
Making his Bulldog debut in front of the home-area folk, Stapleton hit his own first shot—a banked-in three. He added another trey and with free throws scored eight total points. “It felt surreal,” he said.
Southern Mississippi might’ve used the same word though in a very different sense. The Eagle program is still struggling back from NCAA sanctions and chances of success were slim. Then, non-existent.
Mississippi State set an early tone with a 16-4 start with three made-treys, two from Stapleton. The Eagles could only get as close as six the rest of the period and trailed 39-25 at intermission.
It was 41-29 at 18:28 of the last half after a jumper by Raheem Watts dropped. That would be the last Southern Miss score for almost 13 full minutes. They would miss all 19 shots, of any distance, taken in this Sahara-degree drought.
“That’s where we struggled our last game, the defensive end,” Howland said. “We did a better job helping tonight.” Even when Dogs didn’t defend well, Southern Miss just missed.
Meanwhile State made 13 of 21 shots in that stretch, and 6-of-9 on treys. Points came so fast and so easily that even awkward or forced shots went well. The Bulldogs were able to score more points in this searing stretch than Southern Miss had for the game, blowing the lead out to 76-29 before USM’s D’Angelo Richardson hit from out top at 5:33.
“I didn’t know at the time,” said Howland of the 35-point surge. “I just know they were on 29 a long time. Credit our defense for some of that.”
No Eagle mustered double-digits, as Watts led his side with nine points. Southern Miss shot 23% for the evening and 5-of-26 at the arc. Of their 50 misses, eleven were blocked as seven Dogs swatted a shot. Starting forward Aric Holman had two blocks to go with 11 rebounds, ten of those defensive; while off the bench Schnider Herard also blocked two balls and led all rebounders with a dozen.
Mississippi State is now 18-6 playing in the Mississippi Coliseum. Bulldog teams will also be back to face Eagle squads on this court for the next three Decembers.
“It’s good for us and our fans to get here once in a year,” Howland said. “We’re the state university of Mississippi. I thought this would be good for college basketball in the state of Mississippi. And I was pleased our fans came out and supported us.”
State has a couple of days off before hosting Morehead State at 6:00 Thursday.