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Time running out for Miss. State, Ole Miss: Key matchup Wednesday at The Hump

(Photo from OleMissMBB and HailStateMBK on X)

  • The Bulldogs and Rebels alike will need clean play tonight, something much more than a monster game from one guy. But for State, Hubbard is a good place to start.

Sometimes being really good at being unremarkable can get a leg up on the competition.

Maybe it’s because so few college athletes – so few human beings in daily life – consistently do the ordinary things that each day brings.

It can be tedious and boring.

Showing up to work each day in the proper frame of mind ought to be an understood condition of employment whatever the job.

But so many people don’t do it that those who do – like Mississippi State freshman Josh Hubbard — can seem above the curve.

Combine that work ethic with Josh Hubbard’s ability and you get something special.

“I like everyday guys, guys that show up to film or weights every day and are ready to work. Nobody’s perfect. There are days when you don’t feel as well as others, and other things distract you, life gets in the way if you will. Josh is an everyday guy,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans told local media Monday.

That consistency and attention to detail have made Hubbard, a four-star recruit and former Ole Miss commit, stand out in his debut season of college basketball.

Collectively the Bulldogs fall someplace between remarkable and run of the mill.

They’ve done enough to draw some attention to themselves but not enough to keep them from a real fight for a March Madness spot with three weeks left in the regular season.

“Time is running out and every game matters,” Jans said.

So it is that State will need a good day from its standout freshman when Ole Miss visits Humphrey Coliseum Wednesday night at 8.

Hubbard is already 0-1 in this rivalry.

It’s not because he wasn’t remarkable. He was 7-for-15 from the floor, 3-for-7 from 3 for 21 points.

If it hadn’t been for Jaylen Murray, a transfer from St. Peter’s and an Ole Miss junior, Hubbard would have been the best guard on the floor.

Murray had 21 points, and his shooting numbers were similar – 7-for-18 from the floor, 4-for-11 from 3. He also had 11 assists, and the Rebels won 86-82 in an offensive shootout between two teams that typically play pretty good defense.

Another notable item for Murray in Round 1 – it was his home game.

The home advantage matters more in college basketball than in most sports, and State has it this week.

The Bulldogs hope that will give them an extra edge as they try to distinguish themselves from two other teams – Ole Miss and Texas A&M – who are also 6-6 in conference play.

The Rebels could use their own distinction. Their resume has the look of an NIT 2 seed right now, a NCAA Net Ranking of 65.

Their opportunities are also dwindling. A win for the rivals at State’s formidable Hump would be a Quad 1 for the Rebels, their fourth. 

But there’s something special about State at home. It took the Bulldogs until struggling Missouri appeared on the schedule to get their first SEC road win, but they’re getting a lot of resume mileage from home wins against Tennessee and Auburn. 

Give State fans a reason to believe, and they’ll turn The Hump into something special. Jans said their energy got his team over the hump in Saturday’s 71-67 win over Arkansas, on paper a more narrow margin than expected.

“I’m excited about the crowds. I think we had three sellouts last year, and we’ve already surpassed that with a few games left. We appreciate them being our sixth man. They certainly helped us down the stretch against Arkansas. The place got really loud the last few defensive possessions,” Jans said.

It will be those fans, not the home friendlies, that Murray must navigate if the Rebels are going to sweep the regular season series for the first time since 2017.

The Hump Wednesday night will be the kind of atmosphere that could make Hubbard – a four-time SEC Freshman of the Week, including this week – the best guard on the floor.

Hubbard had 19 against the Hogs, 14 in the second half and five in the final 2 minutes. His 3-pointer with 58 seconds left put State ahead by 1.

The Bulldogs and Rebels alike will need clean play, something much more than a monster game from one guy. 

For State, Hubbard is a good place to start.

“I don’t think he’s ever had a bad practice since he’s been here. He’s had better ones than others, but it’s never been that he wasn’t focused or he wasn’t coachable. He gives effort every single day. I love that about him and the players that have that mindset. For him to come in as a newbie and do that is impressive,” Jans said.

WATCH: Ole Miss at Mississippi State, Wednesday, February 21st at 8:00pm on ESPN2

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