The University of Hartford Hawks (0-3) struck first with a deep jumper from Jason Dunne last to take a 3-0 lead against Mississippi State Sunday afternoon. However, when the Bulldogs took a 6-5 lead just over four minutes into the ballgame, they never looked back.
Their performance verged on dominance for the majority of the matchup, as they led by double digits for the entirety of the second half until the clock ran out and they secured a 77-59 win at home.
The game began to open up as MSU began to control the tempo, as they placed a lot of emphasis on breaking up Hartford’s slow-paced offense. Aric Holman, a senior forward from Owensboro, Kentucky, said this was always a part of the game plan.
"We just stick to our game plan, we try to speed them up, while they were trying to be patient," Holman said. "Just being aggressive, playing in the passing lanes, being in the right spot at the right time."
Holman was responsible for one of the more electric moments in the game, when he took a lob from sophomore guard Nick Weatherspoon, from Canton, and slammed it home for the dunk. Less than a minute later, Holman had a huge block on defense which quickly led to a layup from Quandary Weatherspoon, a senior from Canton. The quick back-to-back baskets were just one example of MSU’s attempts at increasing the speed of play.
MSU accumulated 16 offensive rebounds, a statistic head coach Ben Howland said he was proud of the team's ability to rebound the basketball offensively.
"We did a great job on the glass with Aric and Abdul," Howland said. "Overall, it’s a win against a team that won 19 games a year ago, that’s had a tough stretch here to their season because they are playing two road games back to back."
Howland also praised Tyson Carter, a junior guard from Starkville, who put up 14 points for the Bulldogs, and showed why he could potentially give MSU a third point guard as they have a lot of depth at the guard positions this year.
"I thought that Tyson (Carter) gave us great minutes again, to come into the game and knock down his shot. He is very steady and plays good defense for us," Howland said. "I’m very comfortable with him, and he can play both on the ball, and off the ball. Which is really big for us. It gives us three point guards we can go with."
One of the reasons Carter impressed Howland, was that Carter was 4-7 from 3-point range, and also picked up a rebound and two steals. Carter himself cited shot selection as the reason for the success of himself and his team.
"Last year, we didn’t shoot good, and that had a lot to do with our shot selection, so we just got to watch the shots that we take," Carter said.
In the end, the non-conference game was a great warmup for the Bulldogs as they continue the young season. Howland said he was thankful for the opportunity to play Hartford, for the sake of player experience.
"It was a good opportunity for our young guys to see how people can play different styles, and that style can be very difficult to play against," Howland said.
Howland was also sure to mention his team was not completely satisfied with their performance. He felt like they could have won the game by a lot more, which speaks volumes to how high the team expects their performance to be at.
"We weren’t that happy in the locker room after an 18 point win, which tells you we have high expectations internally," Howland said. "We got to learn from watching the film, and keep growing and getting better."
The Bulldogs’ next opportunity to improve is not far down the road, as they will be back in action Friday against Long Beach State (1-1) in Starkville.