Mizzou Arena hosted a matchup of powerful forces Saturday. The home team, Missouri, entered the contest having yet to win an SEC game. Mississippi State basketball had yet to win a road game.
The latter skid was the one that came to an end, with the Bulldogs picking up a crucial 75-51 victory.
“I understand it was something that we had to take care of,” MSU coach Chris Jans said during his postgame radio interview. “We talked a lot about that. For a bunch of different reasons, we needed to get a road win. I’m glad that we don’t have to talk about that anymore.”
After a sloppy first half in which MSU shot 39.3% from the field, the Bulldogs used a 20-4 run across the first eight minutes of the second period to pull away. Missouri shot just 34% from the field while Mississippi State (16-8, 5-6 SEC) had three players in double figures.
Mississippi State lost back-to-back games last week, pushing the Bulldogs down NCAA Tournament projections. Jans told the team it was important to go undefeated this week, which the Bulldogs accomplished by beating the Tigers (8-16, 0-11) after a home win against Georgia on Wednesday.
The win keeps Mississippi State on the right side of the March Madness bubble. A loss would’ve been a Quadrant 3 defeat.
Shakeel Moore continues to provide offensive spark
Guard Shakeel Moore, who averages nine points per game in three seasons at Mississippi State, continued his strong stretch of offensive play, scoring 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting against the Tigers. He has reached double figures in five straight contests.
Moore, who made all four of his attempts from 3-point range Saturday, has been a staple recently while Jans has tinkered with the guard rotation. He missed Mississippi State’s first two games due to disciplinary reasons and then came off the bench for the next six games. However, he has started all 16 games since.
“Confidence is an amazing trait,” Jans said. “When you’ve got it, that basket looks real, real big. When you don’t, it looks really small. Right now, it’s really big for (Moore).”
Freshman Josh Hubbard has been a starting guard alongside Moore the last five games, and he provided his usual offensive boost against the Tigers. Hubbard scored 10 of his 16 points in the first half, highlighted by a deep 3-pointer on MSU’s second possession.
Cameron Matthews posts impressive stat line
Jans has frequently referred to forward Cameron Matthews as one of Mississippi State’s most important players, and his stat line against Missouri shows why.
Matthews nearly finished with an unconventional triple-double, posting nine points, seven rebounds and seven steals. He entered Saturday ranking third in the SEC with 46 steals.
“He’s an integral piece of (the team),” Jans said of Matthews. “He’s our leader on the floor, off the floor and in the locker room.”
What’s next on Mississippi State’s schedule?
MSU has a week off before returning to the court. Mississippi State returns to Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville on Feb. 17 (1 p.m., ESPNU) for a matchup with Arkansas (12-11, 3-7). The Razorbacks have won two of their last three, including a 78-75 home victory against Georgia on Saturday.
Mississippi State has won eight of its last 10 meetings against Arkansas, including a victory in the lone matchup between the programs last season.