The last time Mississippi State played it gave coach Ben Howland his 500th career victory.
More importantly, the 68-51 victory against Texas State was victory No. 1 for the Bulldogs this season. After losing its first two games, Mississippi State needed a win, and it can even its record by beating visiting North Texas (1-1) in Starkville, Miss., on Friday.
“I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Howland said. “That’s what you have to find as a person is whatever it is that you love, and that you’re passionate about to make that your life. It’s such a blessing. I don’t know how many people get a chance to do that, but I’m definitely one of them. I’m very thankful.”
The Bulldogs lost their first two games by 11 points each and were tied at 26 early in the second half against Texas State before the Bulldogs made five 3-pointers during a 24-6 run and Texas State was held to one field goal in more than seven minutes. They led by as many as 23.
“I thought that we did a really good job defensively in the second half, better than the first half,” Howland said.
Mississippi State is facing the defending Conference USA regular-season champion that is eager to get back on the court.
North Texas has high hopes after returning seven players from last year’s team, which was guaranteed at least a trip to the NIT before the pandemic caused the cancellation of the C-USA tournament. The Mean Green is led by C-USA Player of the Year Javion Hamlet, who averaged a team-high 14.6 and 4.7 assists per game last year.
“He’s a winner,” coach Grant McCasland said. “No one wants to win as bad as him.”
The Mean Green began the season by making a school-record 21 3-pointers (on 33 attempts) in a 116-62 victory over Mississippi Valley State.
They played their second game in three days and lost at Arkansas, 69-54, last Saturday. But they haven’t played since because their game against Texas A&M Commerce that was scheduled for Tuesday was canceled because of COVID-19 issues with the Lions’ program.
McCasland took the blame for North Texas falling behind the Razorbacks by 13 points in the first half.
“That was on me,” McCasland said. “We were on our heels to start the game. They were more aggressive and really disrupted our offense and led to turnovers, which led to easy baskets for them. (But) I loved the fight we showed late.”
–Field Level Media