Ben Howland is a veteran coach in his 20th season on the court.
However, tonight will be a new experience for Howland as he leads Mississippi State onto the floor for the first experience coaching in a Southeastern Conference game. The Bulldogs open league play hosting No. 21 Texas A&M at 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network.
“It’s exciting to be a part of such a great league, which is one of the reasons I was so excited about getting to coach at Mississippi State,” Howland said. “The SEC is a phenomenal league.”
The Bulldogs were up and down during the first half of the season sporting a 7-5 record during non-conference play. MSU has shown signs of improvement of late winning six of its last eight outings and enters SEC play riding a three-game winning streak.
“The non-conference season is over,” Howland said. “We are 7-5 and I wish we would’ve been a little better than that but it is what it is. Now it’s a brand new season at the beginning of SEC play and the level of competition is really raised.”
The Bulldogs will certainly be tested by a Texas A&M team that is 11-2 on the year and is already off to a 1-0 start in conference play following a 92-69 home win over Arkansas on Saturday.
The Aggies have won four straight and are led by four seniors among their starting five. Senior wing Jalen Jones is the reigning SEC Player of the Week and leads the team with 16.3 points.
Senior guard Alex Caruso is the active NCAA steals leader with 230 while teammate Anthony Collins is the tops the active career assists chart with 630.
Texas A&M has a 4-3 edge in the series against the Bulldogs following last year’s 74-70 victory in College Station. Caruso paved the way for the Aggies in that game with 21 points and nine rebounds.
State plans to pay tribute to Texas A&M associate head coach Rick Stansbury prior to tonight’s game. Twelve minutes before tip-off, Stansbury will be recognized on the court for his contributions during 22 seasons at Mississippi State.
Stansbury served as the Bulldogs’ head coach for 14 years and is the school’s wins leader with 293. He guided MSU to the postseason 11 times including six NCAA Tournament appearances.
“I’m excited for Rick,” Howland said. “He gave his heart and soul to this place and I hope that the fans will come early and be there to honor him and show him the respect that he deserves for everything he’s given to this program.”
MSU recently added a mural in the Mize Pavillion featuring Stansbury, Babe McCarthy and Richard Williams.