The Mississippi State University men’s basketball program has started the Chris Jans era off hot, as the Bulldogs picked up their third consecutive win of the season with an 80-47 rout of the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
MSU shot roughly 47% from the field and 79% from the charity stripe. Veteran forwards Tolu Smith and D.J. Jeffries led the team with 10 points apiece. Smith added nine rebounds, three assists and one block, while Jeffries had six rebounds and two steals.
Cameron Matthews, Shakeel Moore, Tyler Stevenson and Kimani Hamilton each had eight points of their own, and six other Bulldogs scored. Nearly every team member had a few minutes of playing time by the time the final buzzer sounded.
The Lions jumped out to claim the first lead of the game, but it was all Bulldogs from there. Transfer guard Jamel Horton Jr. recorded the first points of the game for MSU via a drilled three-pointer, and the Bulldogs eventually took the lead for good with 15:33 remaining before halftime.
The team added a few points here and there, but a 13-point scoring run that lasted nearly four minutes put the game out of reach. MSU headed into the locker room with a standing ovation from the crowd and a firm grasp on a dominant 41-19 lead.
Although the second half was a bit less lopsided in comparison to the game’s first frame, MSU still managed to outscore Arkansas Pine-Bluff by a 39-28 margin and never let the Lions sneak back into the contest.
Coach Jans experimented with his lineup — subbing in freshmen and transfers for significant minutes. Martavious Russell quickly made his mark on fans with an incredible play. The rookie took advantage of a bit of space given by an APB defender late in the game and soared into the air, slamming home a thunderous dunk that had Humphrey Coliseum going berserk.
Russell described the moment he knew he had pulled off the huge play in the team’s postgame press conference.
“After I dunked it, I was hoping it went in, and then when I got up, everybody was around me,” Russell said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, it went in.’”
The Bulldogs had 14 steals, in comparison to 12 turnovers, and managed to score 20 total points off mistakes made by the Lions. The team dominated the glass with 46 total rebounds, including 15 on offense that resulted in 13 second-chance points.
MSU also saw significant contributions from bench players, with non-starters accounting for 47 of the team’s 80 points. Those numbers are a sure sign that the culture in Starkville could change drastically in the coming seasons.
As coach Jans said to media members following the game, the evenly-distributed contributions for his players were a welcome sight.
“You have that many people that contribute in a bunch of different columns. It’s hard to prepare for,” Jans said. “Who knows how the season will unfold. I can’t imagine it’ll look like that that often, but when it does, it just helps team camaraderie. Everybody’s excited because they’re in the game.”
MSU returns to Humphrey Coliseum on Thursday as it faces the University of South Dakota in the Fort Myers Tipoff Regional Round. The game is set to begin at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the SEC Network.