HATTIESBURG – Thousands of fans packed Reed Green Coliseum Sunday afternoon for a Southern Miss and Mississippi State men’s basketball game that didn’t count.
The two in-state foes squared off in a charity exhibition with Mississippi State pulling away late for a 60-54 win.
All proceeds benefited tornado victims in the Mississippi Delta. The crowd, from an eyeball estimate, was about 50-50 Southern Miss and Mississippi State fans. Special shirts and hoodies were also for sale.
“Two schools, two universities in our state came together for a great cause,” Southern Miss coach Jay Ladner said. “I certainly would hope we could keep something like this going in the future, whether it’s Mississippi State or really any other of the in-state schools. I think there’s a lot of needs in our state and we are certainly willing to do that.”
The game was tightly contested with both teams struggling to shoot. Senior forward Victor Hart led Southern Miss with 15 points and Josh Hubbard led Mississippi State with 13 points.
Mississippi State star Tolu Smith did not play as he recovers from a foot injury. St. John’s transfer Andre Curbelo did not play for Southern Miss.
Austin Crowley hasn’t lost his competitiveness
Southern Miss shot just 30% from the field and its star player couldn’t get anything to fall either.
Austin Crowley, the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year, scored 11 points with just two made field goals on 17 attempts.
But even as Crowley couldn’t buy a bucket, he turned up the intensity on the other end to keep Southern Miss in the game.
His key defensive play came midway through the first half when he forced a turnover on the press. Crowley then nailed a deep 3-pointer on the ensuing possession for his first basket.
Crowley, along with guard Mo Arnold and forward Bryson Hall, stayed on the court after the game to put up extra shots. Cobie Montgomery also ran up and down all of the stairs in the arena bowl.
Tall centers could be problematic, but Tegra Izay may be the answer
Mississippi State countered Southern Miss with size that the Golden Eagles could not immediately match.
The Bulldogs’ Jimmy Bell Jr. at 6-foot-10 was the tallest starter on the floor, scaling USM’s Victor Iwuakor by two inches. Bell gave Southern Miss problems near the basket, prompting extra playing time for 7-footer Tegra Izay.
Izay, a Harcum College transfer, held up well off the bench. He scored just two points, but grabbed four rebounds to go with three blocks and one steal. Izay had a big block on Bell in the second half, and then made a chase down swat in crunch time to keep the game tight.
“I thought he responded well and got better as the game went on,” Ladner said. “And I thought we began to see what he can be inside.”
Southern Miss opens the regular season on Nov. 6 against William Carey at 7 p.m. It is part of a doubleheader, with the Southern Miss women facing William Carey at 11 a.m.
Sam Sklar is the Southern Miss beat reporter for the Hattiesburg American. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on X @sklarsam_.
This article originally appeared on Hattiesburg American: Southern Miss basketball falls to Mississippi State in exhibition