North Dakota State vs Mississippi State Preview and Prediction
North Dakota State vs Mississippi State Preview
Ben Howland’s remarkable ability to turn a basketball program around has taken center stage in 2017. After taking over a terrible Mississippi State program in 2015, he finally has a team that can compete in the ultra-competitive SEC. A victory over North Dakota State tonight would give the Bulldogs their first 6-0 start since 2003-04.
The task will not be easy as the Bulldogs will once again play without sophomore guard Lamar Peters who is suspended for his third straight game. Peters is averaging 12.3 points on the season–he was disciplined for a violation of team rules and there is no indication how long the suspension will last. He was missed in Sunday’s 59-56 win over Jacksonville State as junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left to provide the victory. “Three close games in a row for us,” Mississippi coach Ben Howland said of the victory. “Very happy that we won. Jacksonville State will again be in the NCAA Tournament, like they were last year. The key for us was playing good defense.”
Mississippi State’s victories this season haven’t been pretty, but a win is a win. “We are learning to win close games,” Weatherspoon told reporters. “We played a bunch of them last year but didn’t win very many of them. It’s been a next man up-type situation. I think it has brought us together.” Weatherspoon’s younger brother Nick, a freshman guard, is averaging 12 points per game while junior power forward Aric Holman (11.4) and sophomore guard Tyson Carter (11 per game) also average in double digits.
North Dakota State is 3-3 on the season, dropping their last game 54-50 to Stephen F. Austin. Despite the loss, the Bison have looked solid early-on. Their most impressive game actually came in a loss to the 10th-ranked USC Trojans. They lost that game by ten, 75-65–a game they were neck-and-neck with USC for basically the entire time.
Senior guard Paul Miller is averaging a team-best 14 points per game but is struggling with his shooting at 34.2 percent, well below the 45-percent figure of last season when he averaged 16.7 points. Miller is nine 3-pointers away from becoming the eighth player in program history to make 200 and he has a chance to approach the school record of 257 held by Ben Nemmers (2000-04). Sophomore guard Tyson Ward (12.8) and freshman guard Cameron Hunter (10.3) also are averaging in double digits for the Bison, who are scoring 68.7 points per contest while recording 66 or fewer four times.
Defense has been key for the team: The Bison are allowing an average of 58 points over their past four games.
Player to Watch
Bulldogs freshman F Abdul Ado leads the SEC with 3.3 blocks per contest and is averaging 9.3 points and a team-leading 7.5 rebounds.
Mississippi State is favored by nine points currently, a line that could fluctuate to double-digits. We have seen the Bulldogs in some tightly contested battles their last three games against sub par competition so this North Dakota State game is an interesting one to watch. The same goes for the Bison who have experience against elite competition, playing a very talented USC team down to the wire. If I’m wagering on this game I’m taking North Dakota State plus the points.
Mississippi State 78 North Dakota State 71
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