Basketball may not get underway at Mississippi State next month but that didn’t stop the Bulldogs from putting on a show Friday night.
MSU hosted its annual Maroon Madness at Humphrey Coliseum and saw a record turnout with an attendance that rivaled and likely eclipsed most of its home men’s basketball crowd last season.
Much of the buzz surrounding the Bulldogs centered on new men’s coach Ben Howland and highly touted true freshman Malik Newman as well as Vic Schaefer‘s preseason top 10 women’s program, which is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance.
“It was a great crowd tonight with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in the building,” Schaefer said. “I think they’re going to be pleased with both teams this year. I think coach Howland has got a great group. I think they’re very talented and we’re happy to have him. I’m real excited about my team. They’re going to be a lot of fun to watch.”
Schaefer excited the crowd by entering the coliseum on a motorcycle decked out in sunglasses and a leather jacket.
“I thought it went good,” Schaefer said. “It’s probably been about 40 years since I’ve been on (a motorcycle). It was a lot of fun. I used to race them way back when I was a kid but it’s been a while since I’ve been on one and I don’t think I’ve ever been on one that had that much power.”
Both teams were introduced individually complete with pyro and smoke machines. Newman received a standing ovation when his name was called.
“It was awesome,” Newman said. “I really didn’t expect the gym to get this loud. It was a wonderful feeling when they called my name and it showed that I have a lot of people behind me.”
Newman wowed the crowd even further by sinking 14-of-16 shots during the first round of the 3-point contest. However, the former McDonalds All-American fell in the championship round of the competition to senior forward Johnny Zuppardo.
“It was great but I think I got hot at the wrong time,” Newman said. “I think I should’ve got hot in the second round but, hey, it was was fun though.”
On the women’s side, sophomores Kayla Nevitt and Blair Schaefer tied in the finals of the 3-point contest and Nevitt was able to win the sudden death tiebreaker.
Zuppardo also needed a tiebreaker but was able to defeat Nevitt head-to-head for the overall 3-point crown.
In the slam dunk contest, Craig Sword defeated Gavin Ware in the finals by hurdling 6-foot-11 Fallou Ndoye for a one-handed flush.
“I thought I could clear him but I didn’t know I was going to get as much air as I did,” Sword said.
The men’s and women’s teams will open the 2015-16 season with a home doubleheader on Nov. 13. The women face Samford at 5:15 p.m. while the men play Eastern Washington at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network.