JACKSON, Miss. (AP)DJ Jeffries scored 15 points to lead four players in double figures as No. 17 Mississippi State overcame some struggles and beat Jackson State 69-59 on Wednesday night.
Tolu Smith and Eric Reed had 13 points and KeShawn Murphy added 10 to lead the Bulldogs (10-0).
Jackson State led by 10 in the first half after Mississippi State got off to a sluggish start. The Bulldogs regained the lead and went up by 10 before taking a 31-26 lead at halftime.
”It wasn’t the start that we wanted, honestly,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. ”(Jackson State) Coach (Mo) Williams and I talked today at shootaround, and he was very frank with me that they were focused and excited to play. (JSU) deserves a lot of credit. They shot it well and were well-prepared. He had his team with a really good game plan and they executed for the most part.”
The Bulldogs were 23 of 49 from the field and just 8 of 26 from 3-point range. Mississippi State forced 20 turnovers on the defensive end and turned that into 21 points, but the Bulldogs were outrebounded 31-24. They had 17 assists to 16 turnovers.
Cameron Matthews had just two points, but the junior forward had five assists and five steals for the Bulldogs.
”I felt that (Matthews) would transition to our scheme and what is important to us really easily. I’m not right very often, but I was right about that,” Jans said of Matthews. ”He’s a big part of who we are. What you don’t see is the huddles, the practice and his daily mindset.”
Coltie Young, the Starkville native who attended Starkville High School, scored 23 points to lead the Tigers (1-9) against his hometown team. He shot 8 for 13 from the field, including 7 for 11 on 3-pointers.
The Tigers became the first team this season to score more than 55 points against the Bulldogs, who have the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense.
Jackson State made it a back-and-forth affair most of the second half before Mississippi State regained the lead for good. After the Tigers took a 53-52 lead with 8 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs finished with a 17-5 scoring edge.
”We understood what we were up against tonight against an extremely talented basketball team,” Williams said. ”One thing I will take away from this game is these guys stepped up. This was the first time we’ve played in Jackson all year. I think the guys felt really comfortable and excited.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs escaped a near disaster by finding a way to win. It was a game the Bulldogs didn’t play well, but the top-20 team found a way and remained undefeated.
Jackson State: It was one of the best showings of the season for the Tigers who have played a relatively difficult schedule. JSU was in position but just couldn’t hold on.
Jackson State: Faces Texas Tech in Houston on Saturday.
Mississippi State: Hosts Nicholls State on Saturday.