Even with star big man Tolu Smith out with an injury, the Mississippi State men’s basketball team started the season on a high note with a blowout win over Arizona State.
In one of two games featured in this year’s Barstool Sports Invitational, the Sun Devils (0-1) kept the game close for the first 10 minutes of play. But that’s when the Bulldogs (1-0) exploded for a 30-8 run to close out the half and take a 39-18 lead into the locker room.
Mississippi State, clicking on all cylinders, had Barstool personalities so fired up, that Pardon My Take co-host Big Cat had already put $2,000 on the Bulldogs to win the national championship by halftime.
I just put a future on Miss State to win the Tournament 2k to win 300k. This may be recency bias.
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) November 9, 2023
After the half, the Bulldog defense – which carried the team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2019 last season – remained stout and helped close out a 71-56 victory. On the night, Mississippi State held Arizona State to just 32% from the field and 23.8% from behind the arc.
Offensively, head coach Chris Jans’ squad was led by junior college transfer Trey Fort’s 21 points. Fort, who came to Starkville by way of Howard College, earned the start after weeks of debating within the Mississippi State coaching staff.
“We had discussions about a lot of guys,” Jans said about the decision to give Fort the nod. “We got lucky and picked the right one.”
Tasked with manning down the paint in the absence of Smith, center Jimmy Bell, Jr. had a solid outing with 13 points and nine rebounds. Guard Cameron Matthews added eight points and nine rebounds.
Next up for Mississippi State will be its first home game of the 2023-24 campaign against UT Martin on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.