No. 23 Mississippi State is looking to bolster its perfect record and hold onto a special spot as one of the nation’s remaining undefeated college basketball teams.
The Bulldogs – one of just 12 perfect teams through the 2022-23 campaign – travel to Minnesota where they will play the Big Ten’s Golden Gophers Sunday night in Minneapolis.
Ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2019, Mississippi State (8-0) has relied on a shutdown defense, that has repeatedly frustrated opposing offenses, and a straightforward offense.
“We’re continuing to work on making the simple plays, station to station,” new coach Chris Jans said. “Don’t hunt the dimes, don’t hunt the ESPN highlight dishes, just find the people that are open.”
On Nov. 29, Marquette routed then-No. 6 Baylor 96-70 to open the Big East-Big 12 Battle. In the unranked Golden Eagles’ largest win over a top-10 team in 51 years, they shot 58.3 percent from the floor and 48 percent from deep in the resounding win.
That same Marquette squad managed just 55 points against Mississippi State earlier at a tournament in Fort Myers – the most the Bulldogs have allowed this season. They also held Utah, which poured in 81 against Arizona, to just 49.
Jans’ club also entered at No. 5 in the campaign’s first NET rankings, which are used to set the field for March Madness.
“I want them to be excited,” said Jans. “I want them to be in a good mood. I want them to enjoy some fruits of their labor, but at the same time, the perspective will come from me (and I’ll tell them), ‘Hey, handle this like an adult. Handle this like a professional.
“Because if you don’t and you get caught up in the hype, it’ll bite you in the butt.'”
In their second conference tilt, the Golden Gophers (4-5, 0-2) didn’t fare very well against visiting Michigan. The Wolverines started fast and led by 16 at halftime then cruised to a 90-75 win over Minnesota.
Losing their fourth straight game, the Golden Gophers were no match for Michigan’s intensity and production throughout the game. Michigan shot 52.4 percent from the field and drained 10 of 18 deep balls. They made 13 of their first 20 shot attempts in the second half to put the game away.
However, leading into Thursday’s contest, Minnesota coach Ben Johnson liked what he saw from his team, starting with the second half of Sunday’s 89-70 loss at Purdue to the then-No. 5 Boilermakers.
“I think it just shows our guys that when the ball moves, we’re a better team,” the second-year coach said. “Now, we’ve got to get the ball moved. We’ve seen that over seven or eight games, when that thing gets reversed a couple of times and we keep it in our continuity, we’re better.”
Against Michigan, Ta’Lon Cooper led Minnesota with 16 points and five assists. Freshman Pharrel Payne had 15 points and went 6-for-6 from the field.
–Field Level Media