Unbeaten No. 17 Mississippi St. looks to beat down Jackson St.
No. 17 Mississippi State will try to continue its best start in nearly two decades when it faces visiting Jackson State on Wednesday in Starkville, Miss.
The Bulldogs (9-0) are off to their best start since opening the 2003-04 season 13-0 en route to winning the SEC West regular-season title.
Mississippi State entered the week one of seven undefeated teams nationally after a 69-51 win at Minnesota on Sunday in the Bulldogs’ first true road game.
The Bulldogs, who have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 55 points, are allowing just 49.8 points per game, which is second nationally behind No. 5 Houston’s 49.7.
The Bulldogs, who held Minnesota 28.8 percent shooting from the floor, are allowing opponents to shoot 33.9 percent this season, the team’s lowest after nine games since the 1955-56 season.
The Bulldogs trailed Minnesota 24-22 with 3:17 left in the first half before closing on a 10-0 run to take an eight-point halftime lead. Mississippi State opened the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 42-26 lead following Tolu Smith’s layup with 17:04 left.
“Obviously, basketball is a game of runs,” first-year Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “We had a good run right before halftime and that helped us. We had a couple of stretches where we got (the lead) to 16 and they cut it to 10. So we had that adversity, but the guys stuck together in the huddle and we did not have much stress down the stretch.
“I felt like they handled it great. We had to get this done on our own and that is just the way it is when you go on the road.”
Tolu Smith scored 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting and added five rebounds, while Shakeel Moore added a season-high 17 points by going 7 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
Cameron Matthews chipped in 11 points and six rebounds, while D.J. Jeffries finished with 10 points to go along with a team-high eight rebounds and game-high seven assists.
“We executed, so it felt good to get that first true road win,” Moore said.
Jackson State (1-8) has dropped two straight after an 85-72 setback at Akron on Sunday.
Jackson State never led against the Zips, who pulled away in the first half to take a 54-26 halftime lead. Akron maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Jamarcus Jones scored a team-high 16 points while Keiveon Hunt added 10 points. Chase Adams and Coltie Young added nine points apiece for the Tigers, who shot 32 of 63 (50.8 percent) from the field, including 3 of 9 (33.3 percent) from beyond the arc.
Jackson State first-year coach Mo Williams, who won an NBA title playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, took over for Wayne Brent, who retired after the Tigers went 11-19 last season.
Williams, a native of Jackson, Miss., arrived from Alabama State, where he went 14-35 in two seasons as head coach.
“The support I have received has been tremendous,” Williams said of his homecoming. “Me being from here, and growing up here with my mom, dad and brother attending Jackson State. I grew up around it. I am excited to be here, but I know people love you until you don’t win.”
–Field Level Media