JACKSON, Miss. - Technically, No. 17 Mississippi State was the designated home team on Wednesday night in the Mississippi Coliseum.
However, with the Bulldogs wearing their maroon uniforms that are usually reserved for road games and playing Jackson State in their hometown, the game had a bit of a bizarre feel. MSU managed to put the odd circumstances aside and pulled away late for a 69-59 victory to remain unbeaten at 10-0 on the year.
"Our crowd was there for us and we had a great showing," said MSU senior wing D.J. Jeffries. "They played a big part in helping us come back and win. Jackson State is a tough team. They're not going to lay down. They had this game circled and wanted to defend their hometown and beat Mississippi State. I salute those guys but we came out with the win and I couldn't be more proud to be 10-0."
The Bulldogs found themselves trailing Jackson State (1-9) with eight minutes remaining but found a flurry of offense down the final stretch, outscoring the Tigers 17-6. Jeffries scored six of his team-high 15 points during that run.
"It wasn't the prettiest win but we'll take it," said Jeffries. "We had to grit and grind this one. Obviously, we wanted the game to be way better but we'll take a win before a loss any day."
Mississippi State shot 46.9 percent from the field and made eight 3-pointers on the night. Tolu Smith and Eric Reed Jr. each contributed 13 points apiece with Reed hitting three clutch treys during the second half.
"My teammates were finding me in open spaces and I was confident enough to knock down those shots," Reed said. "It really was a team win. They were helping me find my rhythm and getting my shots into the game. There will be more of that to come. Our offense is going to continue to get better."
The Bulldogs also received a big contribution from KeShawn Murphy off the bench. The redshirt freshman forward provided 10 points on 3 of 4 shooting along with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 12 minutes of action.
"I just came in and played my role," Murphy said. "It was a close game so I took shots that were open and made the right plays."
Murphy did not play at all during MSU's win at Minnesota and his minutes on Wednesday were his first since Dec. 3. But with the Bulldogs struggling offensively and down 19-15 with 6:25 remaining in the opening half, head coach Chris Jans called Murphy's number to try and give his team a boost.
Murphy immediately responded with a long 3-pointer from the top of the key 13 seconds after checking into the game. His six first-half points helped Mississippi State take a 31-26 lead into the locker room.
"It's just a matter of when, it's not if with him," Jans said. "He's got so much ability. He's as natural of a scorer as we have in terms of the feel that he has on the offensive end. He's got that part down...When it clicks for him on the defensive end, rebounding and being assignment correct, he's going to be an unbelievable player. I think he was a little surprised when I called his name but we needed a spark."
Jackson State became the first team to eclipse the 55-point threshold against the Bulldogs this season. The Tigers shot 46 percent from the floor but committed 20 turnovers that led to 21 points for MSU.
"We had to kind of start over in the middle of the game and make major adjustments that we hadn't made all year long," Jans said. "Some of them were things that we hadn't even practiced. Fortunately, they helped us. At the end of the day, you've got to figure out how to win the game. But this will be something we learn from and grow from and will end up being really good for us."
The Bulldogs are back in action at Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday when they host Nicholls at 2 p.m. on SEC Network.