After narrowly missing the NCAA tournament, Mississippi State University men’s basketball has officially started postseason play in the National Invitation Tournament with a win against the University of Nebraska.
The Bulldogs (23-11, 9-9 SEC) overcame the Cornhuskers (22-11, 13-5 Big Ten) 66-59 for MSU’s first postseason win since 2010 against Jackson State University in the NIT.
This is the Bulldog's second time seeing Nebraska this season. On Oct. 22, MSU lost a preseason exhibition to the Cornhuskers 72-76. It was the first game each team played this season.
However, the Bulldogs got their revenge as the final team the Cornhuskers played in the 2017-2018 season. Nebraska head coach Tim Miles noted how MSU got the advantage in this second game compared to the first, even though both games were close in score.
“It was a good, even game,” Miles said. “I think coach Howland has got them playing more intensity, more edge, and they’re a very good team.”
Nebraska started off scoring a three-pointer from Anton Gill. However, MSU soon took over scoring, not allowing Nebraska to get a lead until the fourth period, which even then was short lived.
MSU’s Aric Holman dominated the game, leading the team with 16 points and 10 rebounds, in only 19 minutes of play. Though he did not spend the most time on the court, Holman took the opportunity on the bench to get a feel for the game and see where he could help, and this paid off tremendously for the Bulldogs.
“It gives me a better feel for the game to see what we’re lacking on the court,” Holman said. “If it’s rebound, if it’s blocking shots, I can actually see it instead of reacting in the game.”
His smart play was crucial in the Bulldogs' victory over the Cornhuskers, and MSU advances in the postseason for the first time in eight years.
MSU head coach Ben Howland remarked how close to his team got to making the NCAA Tournament this year, despite the team's lack of seniors. He is nothing but positive for the rest of the NIT and the future of the team.
“To keep advancing in postseason is huge," Howland said. "These guys are getting a taste of what it’s like to play beyond the SEC Tournament. This is definitely a positive for our team, our program.”
This was MSU’s first game without SEC All-Freshman team member Nick Weatherspoon after his injury against University of Tennessee at the SEC Tournament in St. Louis. Coach Howland said it is doubtful he will be able to return in the next game of the NIT, but he has made tremendous progress since the injury.
MSU will take on Baylor University on Sunday in Waco, Texas. Tip-off is at 11 a.m. and ESPN will broadcast the game.