Mississippi State surges past Ole Miss in second half to get a needed win

Published 6:11 pm Saturday, January 7, 2023

STARKVILLE — Mississippi State needed a win about as badly as any team could in the first week of its conference schedule, and went out and got it.

Will McNair Jr. scored a season-high 13 points, Tolu Smith added 12, and Mississippi State warmed up in the second half to beat Ole Miss 64-54 on Saturday in a battle of two slumping Southeastern Conference teams.

The Bulldogs (12-3, 1-2 SEC) snapped a three-game losing streak that included their first two conference games, and that came after they started 11-0.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

“Our backs were against the wall,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “We had to win, plain and simple.”

Ole Miss (8-7, 0-3) remained winless in the SEC and lost its fourth consecutive game overall. The Rebels led by seven points with 12:43 left in the game and then made just 6 of 18 shots the rest of the way.

“(Mississippi State) just absolutely out-toughed us those last 12 minutes,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said.

Mississippi State heated up at the same time the Rebels were going cold. A 3-pointer by Eric Reed Jr. triggered a 16-3 run that put the Bulldogs ahead 47-41 with 7:42 remaining, and they never trailed again.

Another 8-0 run a few minutes later, capped by a dunk from Keshawn Murphy with 1:22 to go, extended the lead to 59-46 and effectively sealed the game.

After neither team reached 32 percent in the first half, the Bulldogs shot 50 percent in the second.

“Basketball is a game of runs and that was a big shot for me and a big shot for our team,” Reed said of his 3-pointer. He finished with nine points and eight rebounds. “The crowd erupted. I couldn’t even think.”

The Rebels’ leading scorer, Matthew Murrell, didn’t get his first bucket until a layup at the buzzer in the first half got the Rebels within three. He shot 6-of-9 in the second half and finished with 19 points. Jaemyn Brakefield added 10 points and Myles Burns grabbed 10 rebounds.