No. 18 Mississippi State stays at home to play Hartford

If Friday night's 95-67 win over Austin Peay is a sign of things to come, the Bulldogs and their fans in Starkville, Miss., surely will be dancing come March.

The 18th-ranked Bulldogs will try to continue their two-stepping on Sunday when they welcome the Hartford Hawks to Humphrey Arena in Starkville for a regional round game of the MGM Resorts Main Event Tournament.

The Hawks might be a little tired after having played Friday in Logan, Utah, where they were trounced 100-73 by Utah State.

Hartford got off to a 9-0 start in Logan, Utah, silencing the crowd -- for a few minutes. But once Utah State got rolling, it was downhill for the Hawks, whose defense was torched as the Aggies shot 56 percent and raced to a 51-27 halftime lead.

Redshirt senior John Carroll and senior Jason Dunne each scored 16 points for Hartford. The Hawks (0-2) will need that same kind of production from their two leading returning scorers, and more, if they're to have any chance against a Bulldogs squad that is athletic and deep.

"We came in with a lot of energy," Hartford coach John Gallagher said after Friday's loss in Utah. "Obviously, they have some high-level pieces and you have to give them a lot of credit. You have to tip your hat to them and they're a really good ballclub."

If Gallagher thought Utah State was "a really good ballclub," wait until he gets a close look at Mississippi State (1-0).

In the Bulldogs' season opener, they led Austin Peay for nearly 39 minutes on Friday night. Mississippi State jumped out to a 9-2 lead and piled on from there.

Quinndary Weatherspoon and younger brother Nick led the scoring onslaught with 21 and 19 points, respectively.

Aric Holman had a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

"I was really pleased overall. Having studied them on film, they have five seniors. They have toughness," Bulldogs head coach Ben Howland said. "They're hard to play against because of the way they pressure your leads and make it hard to make any kind of pass. I thought that our guys did a good job defensively.

"When you look at the numbers, to hold them to 39 percent and only 21 (percent) from 3, that was very good."

Austin Peay closed within 27-23 before the Howland's squad reeled off a 17-7 spurt. Point guard Lamar Peters had two assists along with a 3-point basket and an old-fashioned 3-point play during the run.

With Peters running the show and a front line with loads of depth, it's no wonder expectations are high after the Bulldogs finished last season 25-12 and just missed out on an invite to the NCAA Tournament.

Howland believes Peters will be a nightmare for most opponents.

"He's really hard to stay in front of. He made a couple of really nice passes and made a big-time 3 in transition, but he also created some turnovers that he didn't get credit for," Howland said.

The Bulldogs and Hawks come into the season with stats not that different. Mississippi State averaged 73.4 points per game and allowed 67.8 per game last season. Hartford averaged 70.5 and gave up 70.2 per game.

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