Mississippi State sends Creighton home from March Madness

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jerkaila Jordan scored 20 and led No. 11 seed Mississippi State to an 81-66 win against No. 6 Creighton in the women’s NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

Jessika Carter, the 6-5 Bulldog center, took advantage of the Bluejays’ undersized front court, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Anastasia Hayes chipped in 12 points and seven assists. Ahlana Smith and Asianae Johnson each added 10 points.

Lauren Jensen scored 22 points to lead Creighton (22-9), which made a run to the regional final last season. Emma Ronsiek scored 21 points, hitting 3 of 6 shots from beyond the arc.

The Bulldogs picked up their second NCAA Tournament victory in coach Sam Purcell’s inaugural season. Mississippi State defeated Illinois in a First Four matchup on Wednesday.

Mississippi State (23-10) will face No. 3 Notre Dame (26-5) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The Fighting Irish are hosting first and second-round NCAA games this weekend.


Debreasha Powe hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Mississippi State a 6-0 lead in the first minute, and the Bulldogs never trailed.

Creighton battled throughout the first half before Mississippi State grabbed a commanding 20-point lead midway through the third quarter. At that point, the game felt out of reach for the Bluejays. BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State: advances with a chance to get to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the Bulldogs were a No. 1 seed in the 2018-19 NCAA Tournament.

Creighton: falls in the first round the year after the team’s incredible run last year.

Pitt edges Mississippi State in back-and-forth First Four game

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DAYTON, Ohio – Jamarius Burton made a go-ahead jumper with 10 seconds left and Pitt edged Mississippi State 60-59 in a back-and-forth First Four game Tuesday night that featured 21 lead changes – the most in the NCAA Tournament in five years.

Mississippi State had a great chance to win at the end, but Shakeel Moore missed a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner with two seconds remaining off an inbounds play. D.J. Jeffries’ tip-in attempt was off target just before the buzzer.

Nelly Cummings led Pitt with 15 points. Greg Elliott scored 13 and Blake Hinson added 12 as the Panthers (23-11) won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2014.

They slotted into the Midwest Region bracket as the 11th seed and advanced to face No. 6 seed Iowa State on Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“We showed toughness, resiliency,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “We were who we’ve been all year, and it wasn’t pretty – but it was beautiful.”

A layup by Tolu Smith gave Mississippi State a 59-58 advantage with 32 seconds left, but Pitt – after a three-minute scoring drought – grabbed the lead back on Burton’s short jumper.

Guillermo Diaz Graham blocked Smith’s driving layup attempt out of bounds with 2.7 seconds left, setting up the final sequence.

“I did a block – I don’t even know how – with my left hand,” the exhausted 6-foot-11 freshman said. “I usually don’t use my left hand. And I blocked it, and I knew it was a big play, so I just let the energy go out.”

Dashawn Davis had 15 points for the Bulldogs (21-13), and Moore scored 13.

Burton, who spent nearly seven minutes on the bench after picking up his fourth foul, said he knew his last shot was going in.

“When I had the ball in my hands the last 30 seconds or so, I just told myself I was built for it,” said Burton, who finished with six points. “And I just got to a spot and let it go, and I had complete confidence in myself. That was pretty much everything that went down.”


The 3-pointers were being launched right away as the teams combined for 13 in the first half.

Mississippi State, not a good outside shooting team, hit four in the first five minutes but cooled off after that. The Panthers went 8 for 13 from beyond the arc in the opening period.

The teams hit just one each from long range in the second half.

“Every team is going to make adjustments at halftime, so I think we had to make the same type of adjustments and realize what type of game we were in and take what the defense was giving us,” Cummings said.


Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said he couldn’t quarrel with the choices his players made in the last few seconds.

“It was a heck of a look,” Jans said of Moore’s missed 3. “Fortunately we got it off quick enough where we had at least one tap at it. I don’t think the second one was probably in time, but at that point it’s all you can ask for, a chance – the ball is in the air – to win an NCAA Tournament game and still have enough time to get a putback.”


Mississippi State: Came out firing from long range, but in the second half returned to the inside game that got the Bulldogs this far. They scored 30 points in the paint.

“When you outright rebound someone 49-28, you usually expect to win,” Jans said. “But you’ve got to give Pitt a lot of credit, they obviously played well enough to win. We struggled in the first half to guard them. We just couldn’t contain the 3, and it was still a one-point game.”

Pitt: Were better from outside and finally managed to open a lead against Mississippi State’s solid perimeter defense.

“The attention to detail we had to have to maintain that throughout the game was something that we talked about as soon as we found out who we were playing,” Cummings said.

Miller scores 18 as No. 4 Alabama cruises at SEC quarters

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Brandon Miller had 18 points and nine rebounds and No. 4 Alabama never trailed in posting a 72-49 victory over Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Friday.

The top-seeded Crimson Tide (27-5) set the pace in the first half hitting 8-of-20 shots from long range. Charles Bediako and Noah Gurley added 11 points apiece for Alabama, and Jahvon Quinerly scored 10.

Alabama will play No. 25 Missouri, a 79-71 winner over 17th-ranked Tennessee, in the semifinal on Saturday.

“I thought our guys did a good job opening the game,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “I thought we did a good job closing the half. I think over the final 12 minutes of the first half, they were 3 for 19. We went into the half great.”

Oats had hoped to rest his starters after the first four minutes of the second half but Tolu Smith got hot and changed those plans.

The Bulldogs (21-12) were scoreless in their first six possessions including a pair of turnovers. They hit 8 of 31 field goal attempts and missed all five of their shots from 3-point range.

“It was a tough day,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “We’re best when we get off to a really good start. Obviously, we didn’t. They had great energy out of the locker room. They kind of punched us in the face. We were playing from behind, playing uphill all night long.”

Smith led Mississippi State with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Dashawn Davis scored 13 points.

Alabama led 41-21 at halftime, too big an advantage for Mississippi State to overcome with the Crimson Tide opening up a 25-point lead with 1:14 left on a layup by Nimari Burnette on a fastbreak.

With 5:40 remaining, Mississippi State trimmed the Crimson Tide’s lead to 57-43 on a layup by D.J. Jeffries. The Bulldogs would not get any closer.

The Crimson Tide made a season-high 20 assists.

“Our guys are unselfish, they move the ball, they care about each other,” Oats said. “We only had seven turnovers. I thought our guards did a great job of taking care of the ball.”


Mississippi State: Shot 31% from the field and hit only one of 13 attempts from 3-point range.

Alabama: Miller, a hometown player, and his team received their share of boos from the crowd.

Miller has continued to play even after Tuscaloosa Police investigator Brandon Culpepper testified that Miller brought a gun to former teammate Darius Miles, who was indicted on capital murder charges this week in the January death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris near the Alabama campus. Michael Davis also was indicted.

Miller has not been charged. He declined to discuss the case in the postgame news conference, which was dominated by questions about the situation. Oats said during postgame remarks that the situation has been “tragic” and that it’s “a private matter.”


Mississippi State: Hopes to hear its name called Sunday as part of the NCAA Tournament field.

Alabama: Moves onto the SEC semifinals Saturday against either Tennessee – which beat Alabama 68-59 on Feb. 15 in Knoxville – or Missouri, which was routed on its own court by the Crimson Tide 85-64 on Jan. 21.

Zeigler leads No. 9 Tennessee over Mississippi State 70-59

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STARKVILLE, Miss. – Following a loss at home against Kentucky and having starters Santiago Vescovi and Tyreke Key out, No. 9 Tennessee was on upset alert at Mississippi State on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs proved that in the first 15 minutes of the game, running up a nine-point lead, but the Volunteers settled into the game. After tying at 23 at the half, Tennessee went 8 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half and scored 47 points in the final 20 minutes to win 70-59 on the road.

“That’s a great team character win for our team. The fact that we had two starters out and started the game with a lineup that I probably never practiced together,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “I thought after the eight minutes mark, Zakai Zeigler really settled down and played terrific, playing 40 minutes the way that he did. Our team had great respect for Mississippi State because other than that game at our place when we could have beaten anybody in the country, (Mississippi State) has been in every game.”

The Vols (15-3, 5-1 SEC) shot 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half as the Bulldogs clamped down on Tennessee but it was a different story in the final 20 minutes. Zeigler had 14 points in the second half and Tennessee doubled its production from the first half.

Mississippi St. (12-6, 1-5) improved on its first half total as well. The pace played out of the Bulldogs’ realm, however, as the defense-minded Mississippi St. couldn’t keep up with the hot-shooting Vols.

Tennessee’s Julian Phillips had 18 points and 11 rebounds while Josiah-Jordan James finished with 13. Tennessee shot 23 of 51 (45%) from the field in the game with a 42% 3-point night. The Vols were also big from the line, making 14 of 15.

After turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, the Vols finished with 17 turnovers for the game.

“I just tried to be more aggressive, find my shots and rebound the ball better,” Phillips said. “We didn’t have (Vescovi or Key) two of our leading scorers, so we were missing some points there. It was next man up.”

Mississippi St. shot 19 of 57 from the field as offensive struggles continue. The Bulldogs made 7 of 26 from 3-point range and had 14 of 22 from the free-throw line.

Shakeel Moore scored a career-high 20 points for the Bulldogs, making all eight of his free-throw attempts, and Tolu Smith had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Tennessee won the rebounding battle 39-31.

“We’re a good basketball team. If we stick together and stay the course, we’ll have opportunities to win games in the league this year,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “It’s a big challenge that we all face. It starts with me and my staff to set the mood and the vibe, stay hungry, continue to work and believe. That will be the big focus for us heading into the Florida game.”


Tennessee: After a rough loss to Kentucky at home last week, the Vols needed a bounce back. It wasn’t easy, but the second-half answer spoke volumes, overcoming a nine-point deficit.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs continue to slide having lost six of the last seven games, but that isn’t the full story. Mississippi St. continues to make progress in year one under Jans.


Tennessee travels to LSU on Saturday.

Mississippi State hosts Florida on Saturday night.

Jans: Mississippi State hoops will have swagger, confidence

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STARKVILLE, Miss. – Chris Jans leaned down to pick up a cowbell and rang it during his introduction as Mississippi State’s next men’s basketball coach. It’s an MSU sports tradition he acknowledged struggling with upon getting off the plane.

He plans to get better at it by ringing up more wins with the Bulldogs.

Jans was introduced Wednesday and vowed his program will play with confidence and swagger. While that depends on which players stay, who arrives via the transfer portal and recruiting, he’s intent on transforming MSU from its current state of mediocrity and into a NCAA Tournament regular.

“This is a dream opportunity for me,” said Jans, who was hired on Sunday, a day after guiding New Mexico State to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. “I’ve been coaching for 30 years and when I started this odyssey, I wanted to be in a place like Mississippi State.

“I didn’t dream of being at Mississippi State. I didn’t really have a dream job. I just wanted to be somewhere where it was important and we were on the biggest stage, we’re competing with and against the best players in college basketball and the best coaches in college basketball. And obviously in the SEC and at Mississippi State, we’re going to get the opportunity to do that.”

Jans, 52, led the 12th-seeded Aggies to a first-round upset of No. 5 Connecticut before falling to No. 4 Arkansas, a team he’ll see often in the Southeastern Conference. He brings in a career head coaching record of 143-44 including 122-32 in five seasons at NMSU with three Western Athletic Conference Tournament championships.

His .765 winning percentage ranks fourth among active head coaches, behind Gonzaga’s Mark Few (.837), Kansas’ Bill Self (.768) and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (.766).

MSU’s 2019 NCAA appearance was the only one in seven seasons under veteran Ben Howland, who departed last week. The Bulldogs were 134-98 during his tenure with three NIT berths the past four years including this season. But since a fourth-place SEC finish in the 2019-20 season halted before the tournament by the coronavirus outbreak, they never got above ninth and finished 18-16 in 10th this season.

Athletic director John Cohen said tremendous interest in the job made it important to move quickly to find Howland’s replacement. Jans checked off all the qualities he sought, his impressive record being the most obvious.

“Coach Jans is a proven leader and a proven winner,” Cohen said. “He’s considered by many industry experts to be one of the elite coaches in the entire country. His overall resume really speaks for itself.”

Jans met with half of his roster earlier this week before severe weather postponed a meeting with other players. The Fairbank, Iowa, native didn’t promise a style, but the Aggies’ ability to hold Arkansas’ high-octane offense to season lows in scoring and shooting (28%) in the 53-48 West Region loss suggests his teams won’t be awed.

“We’re never going to step on the floor without a chip on our shoulder,” he added, “and we’re never going to look down at the other bench or the other half of the court as we’re warming up and fear anybody.”

Jans’ arrival follows MSU’s March 12 hiring of longtime Louisville assistant Sam Purcell as women’s basketball coach. He will take over the program when the top-seeded Cardinals are finished in the women’s NCAA Tournament.

No. 5 Auburn holds off Mississippi State 81-68 in overtime

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STARKVILLE, Miss. — K.D. Johnson scored 12 of his 14 points in overtime, Jabari Smith had 27 points overall and No. 5 Auburn held off Mississippi State 81-68 in overtime Wednesday night.

With the win, the Tigers (26-4, 14-3 Southeastern Conference) clinched at least a share of the SEC regular-season championship. It marks the fourth SEC title for Auburn and the program’s first since the 2017-18 season.

“It means so much to us because this league is so good,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “You know, there are about seven or eight teams that could have won this thing. The fact that Auburn put itself in this position is just incredible.”

Smith tied the game at 61 in the final minute of regulation, but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But Johnson scored the first 10 points of overtime to help the Tigers pull away.

Smith also finished with 10 rebounds for the Tigers and was 9 of 13 from the field. Zep Jasper also added 11 points for Auburn and was 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

“(Smith) is one of the great competitors I’ve ever coached,” Pearl said. “You could look at his jump shot and you can look at all the other things about him. But that is one competitive talent. He wants the ball, he’s not afraid of the moment and I’m gonna just trust him.”

Tolu Smith had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Iverson Molinar had 14 points and five assists for Mississippi State (17-13, 8-9).

The Bulldogs missed all 13 attempts from 3-point range while Auburn was 10 of 26 behind the arc. Mississippi State did outrebound the Tigers 50-32, including 21 offensive rebounds. Andersson Garcia finished with a career-best 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs and added eight points.

“It was a tough loss and we’ve said that too many times this year,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “We outboarded them by 18, but we had too many turnovers (20). I blame myself for the looks we didn’t get down the stretch.

“Obviously, our 3-point shooting is impacting us. We are now 1 of 33 in the last three games. It is disappointing. It is frustrating for everyone.”

Auburn jumped on Mississippi State right out of the gate and did most of the damage from 3-point range. Jasper made his third 3-pointer of the half with 10:33 remaining and gave the Tigers a 23-10 advantage.

The Tigers led by as many as 19 in the first half and led 40-28 at halftime.

Auburn shot 7 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half and had 12 first-half assists. The Tigers shot 56% overall in the first half, but were outrebounded 20-16.

Mississippi State shot just 39% in the opening half and missed all nine attempts behind the 3-point arc.

However, Mississippi State used a 32-10 run that spanned over two halves and took a 54-49 lead with 7:20 left in regulation. The Bulldogs also had a chance to win late in regulation, but failed to score on their last two offensive possessions.


Auburn: The Tigers snapped a three-game road losing streak in the SEC and did so at the perfect time. Auburn finished with a 7-3 road record in the league.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ shooting woes from 3-point territory continued. Against Auburn, the Bulldogs were 0 of 13 beyond the arc and over the past three games, Mississippi State is just 1 of 33 from 3-point range in that stretch.


Auburn: Closes the regular season on Saturday and will host South Carolina.

Mississippi State: Concludes the regular season Saturday at Texas A&M.