Mississippi State won its first two games of the season despite being short-handed.
The Bulldogs will try to make it three in a row when they face North Alabama on Tuesday night in Starkville, Miss.
“We thought heading into the season that depth was going to be a positive for us this year,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “Fortunately, it is.”
Injuries will sideline first-team All-Southeastern Conference forward Tolu Smith until January and forward KeShawn Murphy until mid-December, and guard Shakeel Moore hasn’t played due to a violation of team rules.
“We’re having to test (the depth) right away with guys being out, et cetera,” Jans said. “But I always tell them, ‘Hey, listen, if you can go in the game and more often than not move the needle in a positive direction, we’re going to find minutes for you.’ We love having the depth that we assembled, and it’s really helping us already.”
True freshman Josh Hubbard, the all-time leading scorer in Mississippi high school history, put up a team-high 22 points, making five 3-pointers, as the Bulldogs (2-0) downed UT Martin 87-63 in their home opener on Saturday.
Jans said Hubbard is “ahead of most freshmen across the country.”
“He’s got a presence about him that he doesn’t walk around or make decisions like a freshman,” Jans added.
North Alabama, like Mississippi State, has won each of its first two games by double figures. It beat NAIA Blue Mountain College in its season opener, then stepped up in class to defeat SWAC member Alabama A&M on Thursday. The Lions are taking another step up as they face an SEC team.
The program is 1-19 all time against SEC opponents, but the one victory came last season against Ole Miss.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but that’s what the guys came here for,” North Alabama coach Tony Pujol said. “They want to experience big-time basketball and compete against the best there is because when you do that, it sharpens them.”
–Field Level Media
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