STARKVILLE, Miss. — Aric Holman was running the floor, scoring in the post and even occasionally knocking down a 3-pointer.
For one game, the Mississippi State forward looked like a star. Now the Bulldogs need more of it.
Holman scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Mississippi State over Alabama State 96-68 in a season-opening win on Friday night. The 6-foot-10 forward tied a career high with the 18 points, making 6 of 11 shots from the field, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range.
“I felt great,” Holman said. “At the end of the day, I owe it all to my teammates. They’re constantly telling me to score the ball and helping me build confidence.”
Quinndary Weatherspoon — who was the team’s leading scorer last season — scored 17 points and shot 8 of 9 from the field. Eli Wright scored 12 points while Nick Weatherspoon, Tyson Carter and E.J. Datcher all added 11.
Mississippi State jumped out to a 30-9 lead midway through the first half and cruised to a 58-31 halftime advantage. The Bulldogs shot 18 of 32 (56.3 percent) from the field before the break.
Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said he was very pleased with the team’s offensive flow, especially at certain points of the game. There was one sequence in the first half when Lamar Peters caught the ball and passed it out to Nick Weatherspoon for a fairly open look, but he flipped the ball to Wright, who was even more wide open and drilled a 3-pointer.
“I just love that,” Howland said. “My favorite thing is when the ball is moving and you’re getting wide open shots. Passing up a good shot to get a great shot. That is the most fun part of offense for me. I just love it.”
Alabama State was led by Jacoby Ross, who scored 17 points. Ed Jones added 16.
There were 45 fouls called in the game, including 26 on Alabama State and 19 on Mississippi State. Alabama State shot 25 of 67 (37.3 percent) from the field.
Alabama State: The Hornets had an 8-23 record last season, so it’s no surprise they were overmatched by the Bulldogs. Like many teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Alabama State has several tough road games in the coming weeks, including Iowa, Oregon and Cincinnati.
Mississippi State: It’s a good start for the Bulldogs, who are looking to build on last year’s 16-16 record. Holman looked much more comfortable shooting from outside and the addition of freshman Nick Weatherspoon should help the backcourt. It wasn’t all good news on Friday: Junior guard Xavian Stapleton started but played just five minutes before landing awkwardly while trying to finish a layup at the basket. The Bulldogs said he has a sprained knee and Howland said he’d likely have an MRI on Saturday.
Mississippi State hosts Florida A&M on Nov. 18.
Alabama State travels to face Iowa on Sunday.