No. 10 Mississippi State routs Southern Miss in opener

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — With three starters gone from last year’s Elite Eight team, Mississippi State figured to need time to get its retooled roster on track.

Turns out, the 10th-ranked Bulldogs only required about 10 minutes.

Chloe Bibby led five Mississippi State players in double figures with 16 points and the Bulldogs pulled away after a tight first quarter to rout Southern Miss 91-58 Saturday in their season opener.

Center Jessika Carter, point guard Myah Taylor and five-star freshman Rickea Jackson each made their first career starts for Mississippi State, and it took a bit to shake off the inexperience and rust.

“I think they are confident,” coach Vic Schaefer said. “I don’t think that any moment is too big for them right now. They’re competitive basketball players and enjoy playing the game. They’re only going to get better, too.”

Bibby led the way in her first game back after tearing the ACL in her left knee nine months ago against South Carolina. Bibby was 5 for 7 from the field with six rebounds and no turnovers in 25 minutes.

The Bulldogs held a slim 22-19 lead in the first quarter before powering to a 49-32 edge at halftime. They scored 27 more points in the third to run away with the win.

“We felt like coming in that we would have a shot because they had some weaknesses we could capitalize on, but great teams are going to win ball games in the second and third quarter,” USM coach Joyce Lee McNelis said. “We got tired and the Bulldogs took control of that game. (MSU is) going to be a contender again.”

There were some rough moments for backup freshman point guard Aliyah Matharu, but she finished with 10 points, three rebounds and two steals in her Mississippi State debut. Schaefer wasn’t thrilled with her seven turnovers but was excited about the potential from she and fellow freshman guard JaMya Mingo-Young, who added 14 points off the bench and six rebounds.

The Golden Eagles (0-1) were paced by Shonte Hailes’ 18 points. Kelsey Jones had 12 points and five rebounds.

The Bulldogs hit 31 of 57 shots (54 percent) and forced Southern Miss into 28 turnovers and converted those into 36 points. They added a 43-28 edge on the rebounds.

“I think our defense hustled and played hard. We got a couple of steals and ran away with it,” Bibby said. “We still have a lot to learn on offense, but all of it is coming from the defense.”

Jordan Danberry scored 14 points and Carter had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs. Each were in foul trouble for most of the first half.

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State: It was the first game with a new-look roster after the Bulldogs finished off a third-straight trip to the Elite Eight last season. MSU lost All-American Teaira McCowan and All-SEC players Anriel Howard and Jazzmun Holmes but brought in the nation’s No. 6 signing class. The four freshmen all scored Saturday.

Southern Miss: Jones, a former Starkville High School standout, had a strong day against her hometown team. Her brother is MSU football defensive lineman Kobe Jones.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State hosts Tennessee-Martin on Monday.

Southern Miss hosts Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday.