The Mississippi State University men’s basketball team defeated in-state rival, the University of Mississippi in an overtime thriller Saturday in Oxford.
With the win over Ole Miss, MSU sets itself up for a potential spot in the NCAA Tournament. However, there is still much work to be done, as the Bulldogs allowed many turnovers and crucial errors that helped the Rebels force overtime at The Pavilion.
One major positive takeaway from Saturday’s game is MSU fans' presence in Oxford for the rivalry matchup. After the win, Bulldogs head coach Chris Jans described how it felt to see the Bulldog faithful show up on the road.
“I knew we’d have some folks; I didn’t realize we’d have that many,” coach Jans said. “To hear our fanbase and enjoy that, that makes us feel so good. We talk about leading up to these games, how meaningful they are. Just to make people smile … It means a lot. It means a lot to our program, our university and Bulldog fans everywhere. Glad to be a part of it.”
In the first minute of the game, senior forward D.J. Jeffries and junior forward Cameron Matthews got MSU rolling offensively, as they forced the Rebels to take an early timeout. Ole Miss could not find a way to match the Bulldogs' physicality in the opening minutes of the first half.
MSU’s energetic defense became problematic early for the Rebels, when Ole Miss put just four points on the board during the first five minutes of the game. The Rebels were not going down without a fight, however, as an Amaree Abram three-pointer brought Ole Miss back within five points at 14 minutes remaining in the half.
After a plethora of fouls, steals, turnovers and rebounds, Ole Miss caught up with the Bulldogs and went into the half ahead 33-32.
The Bulldogs didn’t come out as strong in the second half as they did in the first, but they still fought hard to keep the score close. Within the first five minutes of this second half, Matthews, Tolu Smith and Dashawn Davis each scored to take back the lead for MSU.
The game started to get chippy in the second half, as fouls on both sides gave each team extra points on the board. Both sides were not letting up, and the Rebels and Bulldogs held each other under 50 points for the majority of the game.
However, the Bulldogs took over during overtime and secured an away game win against the school up north. Jans discussed the challenge of playing on the road against an SEC rival.
“You know, rivalry games are a big deal,” coach Jans said following the win. “Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve made it a point to jump right in the middle of it and be about it and not shy away from it. That’s been our attitude everywhere we’ve been, and it’s been no different when we got here.”
MSU hit the road again on Tuesday, facing the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. The Bulldogs beat the Tigers at Humphrey Coliseum earlier in conference play, and a win on the road against a tough Mizzou team would likely increase MSU’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Tip-off against the Tigers is set for 6 p.m. and SEC Network will broadcast the game.
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