Win over Tigers get Bulldogs closer to the Big Dance

Let the good times roll, or laissez le bon temps rouler, in lieu of Mardi Gras. Mississippi State University (21-7, 9-6 SEC) won their fifth-straight game Tuesday night against the University of Missouri (12-15, 3-12 SEC)with a final score of 68-49.

Tyson Carter, a junior guard from Starkville, led the Bulldogs in scoring with 22 points, and not far behind was Quinndary Weatherspoon who scored 20 points accompanied by two assists. For the past few weeks, the Bulldogs have played with intensity, dominating their opponents.

With only three games left until the SEC Tournament begins, for the first time in a decade, the Bulldogs are expected to make an NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach Ben Howland.

“I am so excited for our players and their chance to experience and compete in the NCAA Tournament,” Howland said. “We want to put ourselves in the position where we have a chance to advance and win.”

A little déjà vu, in 2009, the Bulldogs were a No. 13 seed as they appeared in the NCAA Tournament. The squad was led by head coach Richard Stansbury. The Bulldogs lost to the No. 4 seed, University of Washington in the first round with a score of 71-58. 

With the Bulldogs performing the best they have in the past three seasons, their chances of making an appearance in the tournament increase win after win.

Carter, whose dad played basketball for MSU, recalls the Bulldog’s most recent trip to the NCAA Tournament when he was just 11 years old.

“I remember watching and being disappointed,” Carter said. “It’s a feeling I have never felt before and none of my teammates have either. It’s exciting, but we know that the work is not done.” 

For the past five games, the Bulldogs have shown they can be consistent in play with power and intensive energy. They have also shown they dominate the defensive end of the floor and control the tempo of the game. These have been keys to the Bulldogs’ success on their five-game winning streak.

This year’s team under Howland is nothing short of different. This squad has grown, and possesses maturity and skill from seasoned juniors and seniors who are accompanied by talented freshman. There is no doubt, this season just feels different. 

One of those freshman contributing greatly is Robert Woodard II, a freshman guard from Columbus, who has averaged 6.1 points per game, but scored nine points in the game against Missouri.  

“It’s definitely great energy,” Woodard said. “Coming in this year and trying to lock in that spot feels great, especially for the seniors. I can sense the excitement."

The Bulldogs’ next game will be March 2 against Auburn University at the Tiger's home. Tipoff is at 3 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

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