The Mississippi State men’s basketball team defended home court on Saturday afternoon and earned its second victory over a top-10 team this season.
Led by a dominant showing from veteran forward Cam Matthews and freshman sensation Josh Hubbard, the Bulldogs bounced back from Wednesday’s loss at Florida with an attention-grabbing 64-58 win over No. 8 Auburn.
In a ballgame where neither team shot particularly well, Mississippi State was able to slow the Tigers’ offense which has averaged nearly 83 points per game this season. The defensive intensity and rebounding prowess shown all 40 minutes by Chris Jans’ team kept Auburn off balance offensively and constantly gave the Bulldogs an advantage in front of a rowdy crowd at Humphrey Coliseum.
The first half of action was entirely defensive-driven with both teams just mounting 21 points a piece in the 20-minute span. Mississippi State shot especially poorly, going 0-4 from the free throw line and 1-12 from behind the arc. Nonetheless, 11 offensive rebounds by the Bulldogs, five of which Matthews hauled in, turned into second-chance points to keep things deadlocked at the intermission.
Both teams continued to go back and forth in the second half. Hubbard struck first blood and gave the Bulldogs a small lead that they maintained for the next 12 minutes. Auburn guard Tre Donaldson converted a three-point play to give the Tigers a 46-45 advantage with 7:51 in action, but the Bulldogs quickly responded and made the Tigers play from behind for the rest of the contest.
A momentum-grabbing dunk by star center Tolu Smith on the subsequent possession got the crowd fired up in Starkville and gave the team a spark to shine in the final minutes of action. Bruce Pearl’s Tigers did not go down easy. Auburn hung around and flirted with a few opportunities to take the lead. A Denver Jones triple put the Tigers down by just one point with just under three minutes remaining.
Hubbard responded with a triple of his own and put the game out of reach for Mississippi State’s SEC foe. The Bulldogs closed out the contest on a 7-2 run to earn another top-10 win. The last one came against No. 5 Tennessee on January 10. The last time MSU ousted two top-10 programs came in the 2001-02 season.
Mississippi State had three players reach double-digits on the scoreboard and a couple grab more than 10 boards. Hubbard had 17 points. Matthews posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Shakeel Moore had 12 points and D.J. Jeffries had 12 boards.
The big difference in the game came on the glass. Mississippi State had 45 total rebounds compared to Auburn’s 30.
MSU will look to carry the momentum of Saturday’s win into a Tuesday night match at Ole Miss as the Bulldogs are still searching for their first road win over a conference opponent this season.
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