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Mississippi State finally back on court against rival Ole Miss

Sportsnaut
Dec 15, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels forward Jaemyn Brakefield (4) reacts during the second half against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 15, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels forward Jaemyn Brakefield (4) reacts during the second half against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State hopes a 10-day gap between games doesn’t cool it off.

The Bulldogs (10-3, 1-0 SEC) have won four in a row going into their game against Ole Miss (8-5, 0-1) on Saturday night in Oxford, Miss.

But MSU hasn’t played since an 81-68 home victory against Arkansas on Dec. 29 because its game at Missouri scheduled for Wednesday was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Tigers’ program. No makeup date has been set.

The Bulldogs’ bench provided 20 points in the victory against Arkansas and the bench could be a difference-maker against the Rebels, who were short-handed in their most recent game and could be again.

“One of the reasons we won (against Arkansas) was that our depth is so much better than it was a year ago,” Bulldogs head coach Ben Howland said. “I love our depth. We have a lot of good players, so that excites me.”

Center Javian Davis had six points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes to ease the burden on starter Tolu Smith, who is easing his way back from a foot injury.

“He’s very important,” Smith said of Davis. “We need him. Just having him off the bench is just great. He’s just like another starter for us.”

Rocket Watts had seven points in nine minutes in his first action since Dec. 14 as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery.

Ole Miss played Wednesday without injured leading scorer Jarkel Joiner, who has a sore back, and three other players who were sidelined because of COVID-19. Even so, the Rebels nearly upset No. 18 Tennessee.

They led by as many as 12 points in the first half and never trailed in regulation, but the Volunteers prevailed 66-60 in overtime.

“They did everything they could to try to wear us down,” said Tye Fagan, who led Ole Miss with a season-high 23 points, making 5 of 6 3-pointers.

Freshman point guard Daeshun Ruffin started in Joiner’s place, but left the game for good because of a cramp in the last minute of regulation, creating even more ball-handling trouble for the Rebels, who finished with 27 turnovers.

“I respect our locker room,” coach Kermit Davis said. “We tried hard to compete and we’re going to be really disappointed when we watch the tape just because of our inability to protect the ball. It was obvious.”

–Field Level Media