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MSU took down Ole Miss 83-71



MSU basketball players
Photo from MSU Athletics

By: Elizabeth Keen, Student Assistant

STARKVILLE – In front of a rocking, sold-out crowd at the Humphrey Coliseum, Mississippi State used a strong second-half effort to take control and take down instate rival Ole Miss by a score of 83-71 on Wednesday night.

It marked MSU’s fourth-straight win and was all the more satisfying against considering who the game was against.

“It was a rivalry game and everybody talks about it, and I’ve been here long enough to really understand how meaningful it is to both fanbases,” head coach Chris Jans said.

It looked early on like State might run away with things. The Bulldogs came out of the gates hot, shooting 50 percent from the floor in the opening frame. Jimmy Bell Jr. positioned himself down low early and scored the first four points of the night for the home team to give MSU early momentum.

Tolu Smith III tore up the paint, scoring 18 points in the first half alone. At one point, the forward netted six consecutive points for the home team.

On the defensive end, State had four steals and forced eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes. The team also outrebounded the Rebs 16-14 prior to the intermission.

At the halftime buzzer, the State found itself down 44-40 headed into the locker room. But the best was yet to come for the Bulldogs.

Veteran forward Cameron Matthews explained the motivation the team used as it headed back out to play the second half.

“The message was bottle up that first 10 minutes of the first half [and] how we played defense and try to implement that again, and just try to guard the ball, be real active and just be in attack mode,” Matthews said.

MSU did just that. The Dawgs rattled off six points in the first minute of the second half to reclaim the lead — something that they only relinquished twice through the remainder of the game. State pushed the lead up to as many as 15 as the minutes ticked down thanks to key shots from Dashawn Davis and Shakeel Moore.

When the final buzzer sounded, 9,381 members of the Maroon and White faithful helped celebrate the big victory in the electric Hump.

“The second half, I thought a few things happened,” Jans said. “I thought Cam Matthews set the tone defensively with some big plays, some hustle plays. People talk about 50-50 balls, well he got a ball that was 20-80. I didn’t think he had any chance of getting that ball, and I really felt that gave us a boost. And then the crowd got into the game.”

The Bulldogs only had two turnovers in the second half to the Rebels’ 10 and pulled down seven offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive.

Some of the biggest contributors in the game were the players who came in off the bench. Forty-nine of the Dawgs’ 83 points came from the reserves, while Ole Miss only saw 11 points from its non-starters.

“We’ve got the utmost faith in all our guys, top to bottom,” Matthews said.

Smith led all scorers with 24 points and ended the night with six rebounds. Moore saw nearly 35 minutes of action and contributed 12 points and five rebounds, and KeShawn Murphy added 12 points of his own. Matthews did it all with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

In his first significant playing time since suffering an injury nearly three weeks ago, DJ Jeffries made big plays when it mattered most. The graduate forward netted nine points, including a critical second-half 3-pointer to stretch the State lead. He also had two assists.

As a team, MSU ended the night shooting an impressive 50 percent from the floor and 43 percent from long range as the Dawgs maintained their recent momentum.

They’ll try to keep it up this weekend. Up next, the Bulldogs travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, and the game will air on SEC Network.

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