Monday night marked a long-awaited moment for Mississippi State basketball fans: the regular season of Malik Newman, the prize recruit from a strong recruiting class for the Bulldogs. After not appearing in their opener against Eastern Washington, Newman would come off the bench against Southern.
It also marked the first-ever meeting between Southern and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were riding high after a win over Eastern Washington, while the Jaguars lost a hard-fought game to Arkansas in their opener.
When a SWAC teams takes on an SEC opponent, the latter would tend to win more often than not, at least on paper. On Monday, the “not” came into full effect, and the SWAC reigned supreme.
Southern University went into Starkville, MS, and spoiled the debut of Newman with a 76 – 72 win over the Bulldogs.
Going on the road to play against a big time in Mississippi State didn’t seem to faze the Jaguars one bit. They held the lead for the majority of the first half, relinquishing it for brief moments to the Bulldogs, but retaking it shortly thereafter.
Mississippi State’s largest lead of the first half was just 1 point, a lead which they held just twice over the opening 20 minutes. Malik Newman had a chance at the buzzer to put a dent in the Jaguars’ lead before the half was out, but missed a jumper.
Adrian Rodgers put in 13 points in the opening half to help guide Southern to a 45 – 40 lead.
As the second half opened up, it looked as though Mississippi State was going to start flexing their power conference muscle. A 9 – 3 run over the first three-plus minutes erased the Jaguars’ halftime lead, and gave the Bulldogs a 49 – 48 lead at the 18:42 mark of the second half.
Southern came right back and went on a 7 – 0 run of their own to retake the lead, and they held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for over six minutes. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Southern also struggled from the field, leaving the door open for the home side to get back into the game.
The Bulldogs rattled off nine straight points to take a 3-point lead, then used a three-point play from Quinndary Weatherspoon to take their biggest lead of the game, at 4 points. Southern retook the lead at the 8:25 mark on a pair of Trelun Banks free throws, and never looked back from there.
Mississippi State used strong free throw shooting down the stretch to stay within striking distance, and had an opportunity to tie the game with just 46 seconds left in the game after Southern went cold from the field. Malik Newman missed both of his free throw attempts and I.J. Ready missed three straight field goals to seal the deal for the Bulldogs.
The Southern Jaguars now hold a 1 – 0 all-time series lead against the Mississippi State Bulldogs after their 76 – 72 victory on Monday night.
Malik Newman had a quiet day for the Bulldogs, coming off the bench and playing 17 minutes. He recorded 6 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds while committing 4 turnovers. He was just 2-of-8 from the floor and 1-of-6 from the free throw line. One shouldn’t be too concerned with his stats, as it was his first collegiate game in front of a rowdy home crowd.
Craig Sword led the Bulldogs with 16 points, while Travis Daniels recorded 9 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. As a team, the Bulldogs committed 19 turnover in the game.
For the Jaguars, a balanced scoring attack ultimately led them to victory. All eight players that appeared in the game recorded at least 3 points in the win. Trelun Banks scored a game-high 18 points to go along with 4 assists. Adrian Rodgers added in 16 points and 5 rebounds.
Forward Jarred Sam just missed out on a double-double, recording 10 points and 8 rebounds against a strong front court for the Bulldogs.
Moving forwards, Mississippi State (1-1) will have a day to get things sorted out before their next contest. The road doesn’t get any easier, as they welcome Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, and the Miami Hurricanes to town.
As for the Southern Jaguars (1-1), they will look to build off their big win when they have their home opener on Thursday. They will look to make it two straight wins when Tulane comes to town.