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MSU defeated No.25 Texas A&M on Saturday



Story from Mississippi State Athletics:
STARKVILLE – The Humphrey Coliseum was packed on Saturday as Mississippi State hosted No. 25 Texas A&M in a game with tremendous NCAA Tournament implications.

MSU needed a Quad 1 win to further boost its resume. Opportunity awaited. There was no denying the importance of the moment.

The Dawgs didn’t disappoint. State defeated A&M 69-62 fueled by what could only be described as a total team effort.

Tolu Smith scored a team-high 17 points. Shakeel Moore added 14 and Cameron Matthews totaled 11. Big moments came throughout the afternoon from D.J. Jeffries, Shawn Jones, Jr. and others. When it was all said and done though, MSU head coach Chris Jans indicated the true MVP – or MVPs – were the thousands that jammed The Hump and made it bump.

“I just don’t know if we win this game if we don’t have that kind of crowd,” Jans said. “I don’t know if we win this game if they don’t get into the game the way they did and will us to get out in front and make the other team call timeouts. I don’t think you can place enough significance on that and how valuable it was.”

The atmosphere was indeed electric, but it was powered by the play on the court. The Bulldogs played the part of a hungry team to perfection.

They came out of the gates strong. Mississippi State scored the contest’s first five points and never trailed in the first half. Moore tallied nine points in the contest’s first 5:04 to help the Dawgs gain control. MSU led by as many as nine points in the period before settling for a 30-28 halftime advantage.

For as much fun as the initial 20 minutes were, Jans knew the fight was far from over.

“There’s a reason [Texas A&M] was 13-2 in [Southeastern Conference games] and had won eight in a row [coming into Saturday’s action],” Jans said. They’re a tough-minded group and have a great culture. They play the right way.”

Just as Jans believed they would, the Aggies punched back.

Texas A&M went on a 16-5 run to start the second half. When Andre Gordon hit a 3-pointer with 14:09 on the clock, Mississippi State found itself in a 44-35 hole.

Jans called a timeout. It proved to be the turning point of the affair.

“It was time to regroup,” Jans said. “We just didn’t [start] the second half very well. I’m not sure why, but we didn’t.”

The Dawgs exited the meeting renewed. Their play soon illustrated as such.

The Aggies didn’t make a shot from the field for almost a solid 13 minutes of action. They made only one the rest of the game. It was a demonstration of exactly why Jans’ trademark defense has earned him the nickname of “The Dentist”. The game’s closing stretch was certainly a painful experience for the Aggies.

“Coach stressed to us before the game it’d come down to whose defense was better,” Moore said.

The Bulldogs rose to the challenge and proved to be the toughest bunch in Maroon and White. The Dawg defense was as stingy as it’s been all year. The offense made Starkville shake with big plays down the stretch.

Jones had a key steal on one end followed by a jam on the other. Not long after, a Matthews steal led to a jam from Jeffries that turned up the volume to the max in the arena.

With MSU balling out on the court and the crowd lifting the Dawgs around it, there seemed to be no stopping State.

“That’s our family right there,” Moore said of the fans. “That’s our sixth man. I can’t ask for a better fanbase. They come and bring it day in and day out just like we do, and it keeps us going.”

State fans will get one more chance to lift their team at home this season. The Bulldogs return to action on Tuesday when they host South Carolina. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.

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