It wasn’t exactly how Ben Hansbrough wanted to start the only game he’ll play in his home state this season.
Hansbrough bobbled a pass on the Mississippi State Bulldogs’ first possession and batted it out of bounds when he tried to catch it. Two possessions later, Hansbrough (who was unavailable after the game) had the ball stolen by Missouri guard Stefhon Hannah, a turnover that led to two made free throws after Tigers forward Leo Lyons was fouled trying for a lay-up.
But after that, Hansbrough, a native of Poplar Bluff, settled down somewhat. He turned the ball over only two more times and scored eight points. He also had a Mississippi State-high eight assists. Considering the circumstances, Hansbrough’s coach thought his freshman point guard had a good game.
“He did fine. That’s a tough environment to play in right there,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “Ben’s a tough kid, he’ll be fine.”
While it wasn’t a home game for Hansbrough, he did play in front of a crowd that was somewhat hospitable. When he was introduced before the game, he was the only Bulldog who wasn’t booed. Most of those cheers, however, came from the seats directly behind the Mississippi State bench, which were used by fans of the Bulldogs.
While some of the fans weren’t heckling Hansbrough, he struggled against Hannah and Missouri’s various presses and traps. Hansbrough wasn’t the only Bulldog who played against Hannah and struggled against the Tigers defense, but as the point guard he did often. His match-up against Hannah was one he didn’t win, with Hannah leading Missouri with 27 points and five steals.
“Coming back home is tough enough, but having to come home and fight Hannah all night long up the court and all those traps and doubles, it makes it tough,” Stansbury said. “But Ben’s OK.”
Despite his struggles against Hannah, one Tiger was impressed with Hansbrough. Matt Lawrence, who played against Hansbrough in high school, said he was “impressed” with his performance.
“He made a couple freshman mistakes, which just come, but he hit some shots. He moves the ball real well, too, and makes the extra pass. He’s a real team guy, Lawrence said. “On the court, he’s a good guy. He’ll never say anything. He lets his game do the talking.
Hansbrough entered the game averaging 8.2 points and 3.8 assists per game, second on Mississippi State.
BLOODIED: Tigers guard Jason Horton had to be removed from the game in the first half when he was inadvertently hit in the mouth by a Mississippi State player. The hit caused Horton to lose a tooth, but not the rest of the game. He played 19 minutes and scored two points and had two assists.
WITH A TWIST: Once again, Tigers guard Keon Lawrence was limping after a game, and spoke to the media wearing an ice pack near his right foot. Unlike his previous injury, which was a broken foot he suffered in practice, this one was to his ankle.
Keon Lawrence said Bulldogs forward Jamont Gordon rolled over his right ankle. But Lawrence said he won’t miss any time and will be available to play against Iowa State on Saturday.
“I’ll be straight for Saturday,” Lawrence said with a grin.