UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Once again on Saturday, Mississippi State showcased the tremendous depth head coach Chris Jans and staff has assembled.
The Bulldogs used a total-team effort, including 33 points from their bench, to defeat Washington State 76-64 at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. The win moved MSU to a perfect 4-0 so far this season.
"You mentioned the physicality, and we saw it on video," Jans said."It's all we talked about. This was going to be the most physical game we played thus far. We'll have way better and more physical games, but I thought our guys handled it pretty well considering the circumstances. They didn't back down. We did a pretty good job on the glass. We didn't give them a whole lot of room around the basket with the bigs anyway. They certainly drove on us too much, but I'm pretty pleased. I thought this was our best game we played thus far."
Starters Cameron Matthews (13 points), Dashawn Davis (12 points) and Jimmy Bell Jr. (11 points) all scored in double figures for the Dawgs. Bell and Matthews were just a few rebounds shy of double-doubles as Bell brought down eight boards while Matthews totaled seven.
While those performances served as the figurative fuel to State's fire, the reserves provided the spark to make it burn.
Freshman Josh Hubbard continued the outstanding start to his career in the Maroon and White, totaling 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He was 2-for-5 from behind the 3-point line.
Shakeel Moore and Shawn Jones Jr. chipped in eight points apiece off the bench. Meanwhile center Gai Chol added four, along with a pair of rebounds.
The balanced scoring helped the Bulldogs navigate a nip-and-tuck first half before pulling away in the final 20 minutes of action. There were 10 lead changes in the game, all of which came in the opening period.
Washington State led by as many as four points early on and the Cougars were up 23-22 with 5:30 before halftime when MSU went out in front for good.
A pair of free throws from Chol were the start of a 14-7 run prior to the intermission - a run capped by a Davis layup just before the buzzer.
"I thought the way we ended the half overall [was great]," Jans said. "Certainly, Dashawn was the final basket. But if I'm not mistaken, it was tied [30-30]. Then, we went up six going into the break and really finished the half well, which we didn't have in the last outing. We had a lot of momentum. The locker room was fired up, and we had the right tone. We didn't act like it was over or anything like that, and we had the right mindset."
The Bulldogs carried the momentum into the second half and with 15:32 to go, took a double-digit advantage when two Bell free throws, a D.J. Jeffries 3-pointer and a Hubbard layup on a fastbreak stretched a 40-37 lead out to 47-37.
Washington State never got back any closer than four points and Mississippi State held at least a three-possession lead for the final 8:03 of the contest to remain unbeaten for the year and move forward in this weekend's event.