Thu, 30 Nov 2023

Mississippi State looks to continue ascent vs. Washington State

Field Level Media
18 Nov 2023, 04:40 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)

Mississippi State is gaining attention among those who contribute to the polls.

A win against Washington State on Saturday in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Uncasville, Conn., might just be enough to lift the Bulldogs into the Associated Press Top 25.

Mississippi State (3-0) opened the season with an impressive 71-56 victory against Arizona State. The Bulldogs followed that up with lopsided wins against UT-Martin and North Alabama.

A key area of improvement so far has been their 3-point shooting.

Mississippi State was the worst 3-point shooting team in Division I last season at 26.6 percent, but the Bulldogs have knocked down 30 of 91 (33.0 percent) from beyond the arc so far.

Trey Fort, a UT-Martin transfer, and freshman Josh Hubbard are a combined 18 for 40 from beyond the arc.

Jimmy Bell Jr. is averaging double figures in points (11.3) and rebounds (11.7). All told, 10 players are averaging four points or better for the Bulldogs.

None of those players include last season's leading scorer Tolu Smith, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury.

"I never dreamt that we'd have the injuries that we've had to be able to have that depth tested so early," Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. "But we have, and it's been so far, so good."

Meanwhile the Cougars (2-0) posted convincing wins against Idaho and Prairie View AM before getting time off to prepare for their matchup against Mississippi State.

Washington State shot better than 50.0 percent from the floor in its first two wins and 54.0 percent overall.

Myles Rice, who sat out last season while undergoing treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, is averaging 14.0 points this season. Isaac Jones logged a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds in the 83-65 victory over Prairie View AM on Nov. 10.

Jones had 11 double-doubles at Idaho last season and averaged 6.9 trips to the free throw line, which ranked 14th in the nation. The 6-foot-9 forward has stepped to the line 17 times so far this season, making nine.

"It was good to see him getting to the line," Washington State coach Kyle Smith said after the win against Prairie View AM. "That's going to be a big part of our attack."

Another Washington State player faring well is 6-11, 255-pound center Oscar Cluff, an Australian junior college transfer. He is shooting 75 percent from the floor through two games.

--Field Level Media

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