Mississippi State faces two key challenges this week in its attempt to climb up the Southeastern Conference standings, starting Tuesday night when the Bulldogs take on Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
The Bulldogs (18-9, 6-8 SEC) bounced back from last week’s home loss to Kentucky by grinding out a 69-61 overtime win at Ole Miss on Saturday to keep alive their long-shot bid of earning a spot in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field.
A victory over the Tigers, followed by a win at home over second-place Texas A&M later this week, would go a long way in enhancing those tourney chances.
Currently tied for 10th with Georgia in the SEC standings, coach Chris Jans’ crew also will be playing for a more favorable seeding in next month’s conference tournament.
That possibility nearly evaporated after some sloppy play at Ole Miss.
The Bulldogs committed a season-high 19 turnovers and trailed the Rebels in the final minute of regulation before Tolu Smith made a layup to tie it and Eric Reed forced Ole Miss’ Matthew Murrell into missed 3-pointer to send the game to the extra period.
“Getting stops down the stretch,” Jans said of the key to victory. “We were playing from behind the last few minutes of the game.”
This will be the second meeting between Mississippi State and Missouri this month. The Tigers (19-8, 7-7 SEC) are 2-2 since their 63-52 loss to the Bulldogs on Feb. 4 in Starkville, Miss., and have lost their last two outings, the latest a 69-60 setback at home to Texas A&M on Saturday.
Tigers coach Dennis Gates lamented his team’s failure to take advantage of 21 Aggies turnovers.
“How can you have 14 steals and only 15 points off turnovers?” Gates said. “We’ve got to draw fouls in those situations or come away with the easy basket, or come away with assists as well. And I don’t think we converted. “
It goes back to the conversion of trying and attempting. We forced enough to win a game, but we just didn’t execute once we got the ball in those situations.” –Field Level Media