Starkville Daily News
Bulldogs rally from second-half deficit for upset of Aggies
It appeared that Mississippi State's attempt at a big-time upset was fading at one point in the second half Saturday afternoon.
The No. 25 Texas A&M Aggies went on a 16-5 run to start the second half and led 44-35 with 14:09 remaining in the game.
That situation did not deflate the Bulldogs' desire as they remained focused and rallied for a 69-62 victory over the Aggies at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU head coach Chris Jans said it was not time to panic when his team fell behind, but “just time to regroup.”
Texas A&M came in as one of the hottest teams in the Southeastern Conference and Jans knew that demanded respect by the Bulldogs.
“We talked at halftime that they were not going to go anywhere,” Jans said of the Aggies. “There is a reason they are 13-2 in the SEC and had won eight in a row. They are a toughminded group, have a good culture and play the right way.
“We just did not get out in the second half very well. I'm not sure why, but we didn't. We responded, especially defensively with several stops in a row and got out in transition a little bit. Once that happened, the crowd was huge. They played a vital role in the comeback. I'm thankful for the Hump and the people that showed up. They willed us back into the game.”
The comeback started with a Tolu Smith dunk and he hit a pair of free throws with 6:01 remaining in the game to give MSU the lead at 51-49. A steal and dunk by Shawn Jones Jr. excited the home crowd and put the Bulldogs up 53-49 at the 5:30 mark.
MSU did not trail again after
Smith's free throws and he said the difference down the stretch of the second half was defense.
“Just sitting down and guarding,” Smith said.
Jones Jr. scored again and D.J. Jeffries had a dunk as the Bulldogs stretched their advantage to 57-51 with 4 minutes left in the game.
Several free throws in the final minutes by Cameron Matthews were key and MSU was able to hold off Texas A&M for a much-needed triumph to improve records to 19-10 overall and 7-9 in the SEC.
Smith scored the first basket of the game and Shakeel Moore had a 3-point play to put the Bulldogs up 5-0 at the 18:19 mark of the first half.
A 3-point field goal by Eric Reed Jr. gave MSU a 17-10 lead with 13:53 remaining in the first half and a lay up by Jones Jr. gave the Bulldogs their largest lead of the first half at 21-12 with 13:13 left.
“The first 10-12 minutes was as good of offensive basketball as we may have played all year long,” Jans said.
After Texas A&M cut the margin to 24-21 with 7:49 showing in the first half, Smith hit a bucket for MSU to increase the spread to 27-21 at the 5:30 mark.
Andersson Garcia, who is a former MSU player now on the Texas A&M roster, scored to cut the advantage to 27-26, but a basket and free throw by Smith gave the Bulldogs a 30-28 edge at halftime.
Smith came into the outing with the highest scoring average for MSU and he was at it again with a teambest 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 makes from the free-throw line. Moore added 14 points for the Bulldogs and Matthews chipped in 11 points. Jeffries just miss double digits with nine points.
MSU will look to get another win on Tuesday at home against South Carolina.