Time to shine: Carter, Wright could have huge impact in MSU's NIT game

MSU's Tyson Carter
Staff Writer

When the lights dim at the Humphrey Coliseum and the starting lineups are introduced Wednesday night for Mississippi State’s first postseason game since 2012, there’s a strong chance the MSU starting five is going to include the team’s hometown boy.

With State’s All-Southeastern Conference Freshman Team guard Nick Weatherspoon expected to miss Wednesday night’s first-round National Invitation Tournament game against Nebraska due to a hip contusion suffered last week, it’s likely that former Starkville High guard Tyson Carter will be the first man up to try and fill Weatherspoon’s big shoes.

Carter says he’s ready to handle the responsibility.

“It won’t be too big of an adjustment,” Carter said. “I started probably half the season anyway, so it’ll just be normal.”

MSU not having Weatherspoon is perhaps the biggest obstacle the Bulldogs (22-11) will have to overcome tonight at 8 p.m. against the Cornhuskers (22-10). Weatherspoon is MSU’s second-leading scorer (11.1 points per game) and arguably the team’s best defensive player. Yet he won’t be on the floor tonight after an ugly fall last Friday in a Southeastern Conference Tournament game against Tennessee.

There’s a chance Weatherspoon could return for the Bulldogs should MSU advance into later rounds of the NIT, but as for tonight, he’s out. That means Carter, as well as fellow guard Eli Wright, will be heavily leaned on to try and make up for Weatherspoon’s lost production.

MSU’s Lamar Peters says he believes the Bulldogs will be just fine leaning on Carter and Wright.

“I trust those guys a lot because I watched how they worked all last summer,” Peters said of Carter and Wright. “They put in work last summer. Nick going down, that’s going to hurt because he brings a lot of energy. He’s a defensive guy and a great team player, but Tyson and Eli are more than capable of stepping up and being big. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re going to do.”

Both Carter and Wright have had big moments for the Bulldogs this year to get State to this point. Carter has started in 16 of MSU’s 33 games and averages 22.6 minutes per contest anyway. He’s used to a heavy workload.
He has also shown flashes this season of being a guy that can take over a game. In late November into early December, Carter had a stretch where he scored 20 or more points in three out of four games. On Nov. 30, he poured in a career-best 35 points against North Dakota State.

Wright has had his share of highlights this year, too. In a reserve role, he has averaged playing 14.3 minutes per game and scores 3.3 per contest, however Wright’s impact goes deeper than his numbers may indicate.

“The minutes Eli does play, he really gives us a boost when he comes in,” MSU’s Quinndary Weatherspoon said.

Never was that more apparent than on Feb. 24. In a 72-68 win over South Carolina, Wright turned the game around with a 2 1/2 minute stretch in which he scored eight points. He scored three baskets in that period with all three resulting in and-1 opportunities. He hit two of the three free throws.

It’s performances like those that have the Bulldogs confident they’ll be fine in the hands of Carter and Wright Wednsday night.

“I think they’re ready to step in,” Quinndary Weatherspoon said. “They’ve been playing great.”

It’ll likely take solid games from Carter and Wright to propel MSU into the NIT’s second round. Nebraska is a challenging opponent who defeated State 76-72 in an exhibition game last October.

The Cornhuskers went on to put together a season that earned them the school’s first postseason appearance in four years.

“They’re a really good team,” Carter said. “They shoot the ball well. They have at least four really good shooters on the court at all times. It’s a tough matchup.”

Despite Nebraska’s talent, and Nick Weatherspoon’s absence, the Bulldogs aren’t backing down. State would much rather enter Wednesday nnight with Nick Weatherspoon’s services, but that’s not the hand MSU has been dealt.

Instead, Mississippi State is counting on Carter and Wright to help shoulder more of the load. It’s a chance the duo is excited to have.

“Even though it’s a little more responsibility, we’re able to help the team more,” Carter said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.”