The Iverson Molinar & Garrison Brooks combination is here, and it is fun to watch. They were key in Mississippi State University's season-opening win against the University of North Alabama Lions, in which the Bulldogs triumphed via a score of 75-49.
The UNC graduate transfer forward Garrison Brooks led all scorers with 18, and Molinar, a junior guard from Panama City, Panama, was the team's second leading scorer with 13. Cameron Matthews, a sophomore from Olive Branch, lived up to his reputation as a defensive nightmare for opponents with two blocks, two steals and 14 rebounds.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 17-5 lead early in the first half, and maintained the lead from there on. At the second media timeout, MSU had 14 of their 21 points off turnovers.
At halftime, MSU led 18-0 in points off turnovers, 11-0 in fast-break points, and 6-0 in second chance points, making every hustle play count.
In the post-game press conference, Brooks said the teams wants to get out in transition and on the fast break. Brooks also put an emphasis on team basketball.
"We played well, as a team," Brooks said.
Continuing, Brooks stated that the team has had chemistry since his first day as a Bulldog.
In the second half, MSU was able to continue the dominant performance, winning the half itself by 15. MSU closed the game on a 20-4 run, capping off a strong defensive win.
The Bulldogs forced 17 turnovers, and won the points off the turnover battle 24-4.
Head coach Howland said he was impressed with the team's defensive performance, in particular holding UNA to 31% shooting and out-rebounding UNA by 10. Howland was also incredibly impressed with Cameron Matthews and his stat line, calling him "arguably the best defender on the team."
Especially on the fast break, MSU shone, winning that category 23-4. This team looks like one that is consistently looking to get out and run in transition, a sight for the sore eyes of Bulldog fans, no doubt, as this is something MSU teams have struggled with in years past.
The schedule does not get any easier for the Bulldogs, though, as MSU faces a veteran-led, preseason-Big-Sky-favorite Montana team on Saturday in Starkville, with tip-off at 6 p.m.