Southern U. rallies late to stun No. 21 Mississippi State

Published 9:20 pm Sunday, December 3, 2023

STARKVILLE (AP) — Tai’Reon Joseph scored 27 points and blocked Mississippi State’s final shot as Southern closed on a 12-0 run to stun the No. 21 Bulldogs 60-59 in a men’s basketball game Sunday.

Down 59-48 with 4:28 remaining, the Jaguars (2-6) took the lead with 23 seconds left on Brandon Davis’ layup. With three seconds left, Joseph blocked Josh Hubbard’s shot to hand Mississippi State (6-2) its second straight loss.

“I think it was our zone,” Southern coach Kevin Johnson said. “We don’t have size to match up with those guys. We’ve played zone this year and we had to with the schedule we’ve played. But I had no idea we would play that much zone tonight but I am proud of them.”

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The Jaguars have faced a tough non-conference schedule to help finance the athletic department, also playing at No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Marquette and No. 24 Illinois. Their other victory of the season was at UNLV.

This was only the second time Southern and Mississippi State have played each other in men’s basketball, and Southern has won both times. The last was in 2015, when the Jags won 76-72 in Starkville.

Joseph was 11-of-21 from the field.

“Tai’Reon is a really good player,” Johnson said.” Not only that, he is a competitor. There is no question about his talent.”

Davis had 12 points — five during the 12-0 run.

Hubbard led Mississippi State with 14 points, and Cameron Matthews had 12. The Bulldogs also lost at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night in the ACC/SEC Challenge, after they had won their first six games and climbed into the Associated Press Top 25.

“We had plenty of time to stew on it and learn to grow from it,” Bulldogs coach Chris Jans of the previous loss to Georgia Tech. “But I didn’t expect this, certainly, and I don’t think anyone in that room would have expected this. Tuesday was tough but it is going to pale in comparison to this.”

Mississippi State shot 40 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Jaguars 34-32 and made just 7 of 26 shots from 3-point territory.

Southern shot 43 percent for the game and made 12 of 19 at the foul line. The Jaguars also had 17 turnovers and made 6 of 21 beyond the 3 point arc.

“From my perspective we were really stagnant and real tentative, like we didn’t know what we were doing,” Matthews said. “It’s concerning, especially since we’ve got guys out here that have been in situations like that. I take the blame on that one and it is on me. I got to hold things down until Tolu (Smith) gets back.”