Mississippi State Basketball: Three Game Report Card Grades
The Mississippi State Basketball team won its first game in three tries to start the season, defeating Texas State 68-51. That win was the 500th win for Ben Howland in his career. As this season gets going, this team will surely have its ups and downs.
The Bulldogs were picked twelfth in the SEC for a reason. Those reasons showed up in losses to Clemson and Liberty. Ben Howland has led Mississippi State Basketball to three straight 20 win seasons. If he wants to make that four in a row, his coaching and the team’s performance must improve.
If you watched any of the three games, you would have to agree that our team has improved after each contest. Throughout the season, I will give the Bulldogs grades on how they perform over stretches of games.
The season started in Melbourne, Florida, at the Space Coast Challenge. Scoring the basketball contested and uncontested was definitely a challenge for Mississippi State. Against Clemson, Mississippi State only made fifteen of the fifty shots they took.
Improvement was made against liberty as the Bulldogs shot 57% from the field. The shooting percentage took a dip against Texas State, but it was good enough to win by double figures. Mississippi State also had the edge in offensive rebounds, which provides a chance for second-chance points.
In an earlier article, I said D.J. Stewart needed to have a breakout season. In the last two games, he has led the team in scoring and tied for the lead against Clemson. As he goes, so does this team, and Tolu Smith is right there with him.
I could have included free-shooting above, but I felt the need to separate it from the offense today. A game can be won and lost on free-throw shooting alone. Against Clemson, the margin of victory for the Tigers was only eleven points, and Mississippi State missed twenty-one free throws for an atrocious percentage of 29.6%
The free-throw shooting improved the next two games. Against Liberty, the percentage rose to 64% and improved to 75% in the win against Texas State. This grade could be higher with the improvements, but the Clemson game just brings it down.
If not for such a poor shooting effort against Clemson, the Bulldogs had a chance to come back in that game. The defense forced Clemson into a terrible shooting night as well. Against the hot shooting Liberty the Flames, Mississippi State’s defense had their eyes shot out literally.
The Flames made their first six three-pointers on their way to making 19 for the game at a 48.7 percentage. Against Texas State, the defense shined, especially in the second half as the Bulldogs pulled away for the victory.
A key stat to look at in all three games is rebounding. The Bulldogs outrebounded all three of their opponents and by double-digit rebounds against Liberty and Texas State.
This Mississippi State team has a long way to go being able to compete in the SEC. Mississippi State has talent.
They are just untested at the moment. The next test for this young Bulldog team is the University of North Texas on December 4.
The tandem of Stewart and Smith has star potential. If the Bulldogs can get consistent production from the rest of the starting lineup and its bench, it is possible to pull a few upsets this year.