For the first time since a disappointing exit from the first round in the NCAA Tournament, the Mississippi State University Men’s Basketball Team stepped on the court to face the University of South Alabama Jaguars in a charity exhibition game at the Humphrey Coliseum this past Sunday.

The game benefited the United Way of West Central Mississippi to aid those affected by the floodwaters in the South Delta. MSU defeated the Jaguars 78-75 in a thriller ending to secure the win. South Alabama’s head coach Richie Riley said MSU is a team destined for tournament play this season.

“We played a team that’s an NCAA Tournament team today,” Riley said. “They’ve got size, length and with (Tyson) Carter they’ll be able to make shots.”

With Sunday’s game as their final practice game until the first game of their 2019-20 campaign, the Bulldogs showcased what they have in store for the upcoming season against a favored Sun Belt Conference team.

Opening up play, the Jaguars struck first and held MSU scoreless for the first two minutes. Tyson Carter, a senior guard from Starkville, scored the Bulldogs’ first points on a three-pointer and would continue to go 6-8, including 3-5 from the free-throw line, to lead the squad in scoring with 19 points.

Carter also made a very defensive play in the final seconds of the game to secure the victory. Carter said the plan to keep USA from scoring in those final moments was to keep Andre Fox, who went 5-9 from the three-point line, from scoring.

“He’s [Andre Fox] a pretty good player, so we knew we didn’t want him to get any breathing room,” Carter said. “We made sure we stuck to him and made sure he didn’t get a shot up.” 

Accompanying Carter in a great performance was Iverson Molinar, a freshman guard from Panama City, Florida. Molinar finished with 15 points and went 6-12, including 3-4 from the free-throw line. Head coach Ben Howland gave Molinar high praise after his performance.

“For a freshman, first game ever, he looked very comfortable,” Howland said. “He was just out there balling.” 

Adding to the Bulldogs’ thrilling victory was Reggie Perry, a sophomore forward from Thomasville, Georgia, and KeyShawn Feazell, a junior forward from New Hebron. Both Bulldogs scored 12 points accompanied by nine rebounds that were evenly distributed between the offense and defense.

Although Perry got into foul trouble, he finished shooting 4-8 with four assists, while Feazell finished 5-10, including 2-2 from the free-throw line. While active, both players made sure their presence was felt on both sides of the ball.

Since last season, Feazell has not only improved his game but his agility. Feazell dropped 25 pounds and bulked up over the summer to be ready for competition this season.

“I was 250 at the end of last season,” Feazell said. “Dropping that weight helped me move better and more agile, quick off the floor and quicker to spots.

Also contributing to the offensive and defensive runs put on by the Bulldogs was Robert Woodard II, a sophomore guard from Columbus,  Woodard finished with nine rebounds, three were offensive while the remaining six were defensive, and shot 3-8 for eight points.

After Sunday’s exhibition game, the Bulldogs are scheduled to host Florida International University for their first regular season game at 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 5 in the Humphrey Coliseum. Entering the matchup, the Bulldogs carry a 22-game non-conference home winning streak into the season opener.

Feazell came into the game as the first man off of the bench. Being the number six was an opportunity that he seized.

“My first two years, I suffered injuries. I wasn’t playing as much," Feazell said. "I feel like that prepared me for that moment. Now, it’s about stepping up and being ready.”

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