FAYETTEVILLE - Literally one of the biggest names in college basketball with 21 letters spelling his name, Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon ranks among the best names in the SEC simply because he’s among its best players.
The 6-4 junior Preseason Second-Team All-SEC guard and his 12-1 overall, 0-0 in the SEC Mississippi State Bulldogs teammates await the 11-2, 1-0 in the SEC Arkansas Razorbacks tonight in Starkville, Miss.
Tip-off is 8 p.m. and televised by the SEC Network at the Bulldogs’ Humphrey Coliseum.
It’s the SEC opener for Coach Ben Howland’s Bulldogs who frosted nonconference cupcake North Florida, 109-81 last Saturday in Starkville while Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks Saturday opened their SEC season winning a 95-93 overtime thriller over the then 19th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers at Walton Arena.
Arkansas guards Daryl Macon, 33 points, and Jaylen Barford, 28 points, combined for a stunning 61 points against Tennessee last Saturday but combined were seven points outscored by Weatherspoon last season at Walton Arena.
Weatherspoon’s 25 points, augmented by the 13 points/11 rebounds double-double by returning 6-10 junior forward Aric Holman and 14 points by guard Lamar Peters, now coming off the bench as Howland’s sixth man, led an 84-78 upset over the eventual 26-10 Razorbacks last season in Fayetteville.
Freshmen point guard Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s brother, and 6-11 forward Abdul Ado and returning 6-3 sophomore guard Tyson Carter, join the elder Weatherspoon and Holman in tonight’s Mississippi State lineup.
“He (Quinndary Weatherspoon) is a tremendous player,” Anderson said Sunday. “He can create for himself. They do a good job of running him off a lot of different screens. He's a versatile player. Very athletic and real steady. He's a good passer, a tremendous rebounder at that size. They've got some other guys that are playing well. The Holman kid. He's a versatile kid that can go inside and outside. He had a pretty good game here last year. About a 6-8, 6-9 kid that attacks the glass. The Carter kid can really shoot the basketball. They play a lot of guys. They're defending, they're scoring. They're playing with a lot of confidence.
With a 61-59 victory in Starkville over the usually stellar but this season only 5-7 Dayton Flyers and a 65-50 road loss to Cincinnati as their marquee nonconference opponents, the Bulldogs haven’t played the nonconference caliber schedule that Arkansas played with Oklahoma, UConn, Minnesota, and Bucknell among its victories and North Carolina and Houston comprising Arkansas’ defeats.
However what the Bulldogs’ Q did to the Hogs last season in Fayetteville ought to have Arkansas on its p’s and q’s in Starkville tonight.
Especially since, though back on Dec. 2, Arkansas still smarts from a 91-65 rout by administered by the Houston Cougars in Houston the last time the Razorbacks ventured away from Arkansas.
Here’s what they must do tonight in Starkville that they didn’t do in Houston, Anderson said.
No. 1 on the road expect the worst and that you must respond with your best.
“We're going to get punched,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to punch back. And then I think we cannot panic. We've got to deal with the adversity. And how do you deal with adversity? Come down and execute. Get stops on defense. You've got to shoot the ball well. Shooting cures a lot of ills when you're on the road. You've got to get to the free throw line as much as they do and you’ve got to make free throws.”
While overcoming Tennessee in overtime at Walton was a major accomplishment, Anderson implied the Hogs can’t rest on laurels that aren’t laurels given they achieved but nine assists to Tennessee’s 17 while Tennessee’s bench outscored their bench, 33-5.
“Our assists total has got to go up and we’ve got to get our bench very, very involved,” Anderson said. “The other night guys (senior guards Anton Beard of North Little Rock and Macon) played 42, 41 minutes. That’s hard to do at the pace and the level that we want to play.”