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Mississippi State falls to Michigan State 69-51 in round one of NCAA Tournament

Mississippi State's Cameron Matthews and Michigan State's Malik Hall fight for the ball during Thursday's NCAA Tournament game in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo courtesy of MSU Athletics)

A lot of Mississippians unfortunately have already had their brackets busted as the Mississippi State men’s basketball team fell 69-51 in round one of the NCAA Tournament to Michigan State.

After allowing the No. 9 seed Spartans to jump out to a 20-8 lead to start the game, the No. 8 seed Bulldogs could never manage to get on the right side of the scoreboard. In the second half, they pulled it within eight at one point, but Michigan State’s guards continued to make shots and put the game out of reach.

One of the biggest differences was down low. On paper, Mississippi State looked like they had a prime opportunity to dominate the paint, but poor showings from first-team All-SEC forward Tolu Smith and Jimmy Bell resulted in 11 points and three rebounds. Both teams turned the ball over a good bit with the Bulldogs giving it away 15 times and Michigan State 16 times.

Even after the tough loss, second-year head coach Chris Jans gave credit to his guys for a memorable season.

“This group of men that have been here, they’re going to be remembered. They’ve done a lot of things in the last two years that this program hasn’t in quite some time with the quality of wins and the tournament appearances,” Jans said.

“Certainly, we’re crushed that we’re not advancing. That was the plan. We thought we could win multiple games with the group that we had. That was our goal all year long from when we got together in June and refocused it in the fall. That was our ultimate goal. It doesn’t feel great not to achieve it, but these kids will be remembered for sure.”

Freshman phenom Josh Hubbard finished a record season with 15 points as Michigan State had three players score in double figures with Tyson Walker leading the way with 19. The Spartans, who are in their 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under Tom Izzo, are now 20-4 in first-round games.

It was the first time Mississippi State had made back-to-back appearances in the Big Dance since 2008 and 2009. The Bulldogs finish the season with a 21-14 overall record that included three victories over Associated Press Top 10 opponents.

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