No. 21 Mississippi State tries to keep rolling at Georgia Tech

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 27 Nov, 2023 at 10:17 PM

Credit: Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The first edition of the ACC-SEC Challenge presents challenges of its own for Mississippi State coach Chris Jans and Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire.

Jans and the Bulldogs (6-0), ranked No. 21 in the country, travel to Atlanta for their first true road game of the season on Tuesday.

In his second season at the helm of the Mississippi State program, Jans has his team off to another hot start. In 2022, the Bulldogs won their first 11 games of the season and rose to as high as No. 15 in the polls. The team lost eight of its next nine games, quickly dropping from the rankings.

This year's team has a different mindset about seeing that little number next to its name.

"In terms of the rankings, and all that stuff, we haven't talked about it one time," Jans said. "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we're being acknowledged and it's nice for our program, but at the end of the day, we have a lot of basketball yet to be played."

Keying the 6-0 start for Mississippi State has been true freshman Josh Hubbard. Rated the state's top prospect in the 2023 ESPN 100, Hubbard leads the team at 16.2 points per game and is Mississippi State's top 3-point shooter, connecting on 41 percent of his triples.

"You don't really know your recruits until they become your players," Jans said. "You try to figure it out in the recruiting process, but there's nothing like being a member of a team for a long time and then getting an understanding of what they're really all about.

"Josh is all about the right things. He has got an unbelievable work ethic, he's got poise and he's got a presence about him that's mature beyond his years. He's obviously been a big shot in the arm for us."

Georgia Tech (2-2) has an array of new faces as well, starting with the head coach. Four games into his first season at the helm of the Yellow Jackets program, Stoudamire has seen his team battle inconsistency.

After taking care of Georgia Southern in the season opener, the Yellow Jackets had to rally from 14 down to beat Howard, but then lost at home to UMass Lowell and most recently were blown out by Cincinnati, 89-54.

"Whether you lose by one or lose by 40, it's just one loss," Stoudamire said following the Cincinnati game. "But we have to get better. That's the biggest thing for me right now, we just have to get better. It starts with more of a collective sense of urgency."

The Yellow Jackets' schedule won't get any easier as they host Mississippi State before No. 7 Duke comes to town on Saturday for both teams' conference opener.

Miles Kelly has led Georgia Tech with 18.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Tuesday kicks off the inaugural ACC-SEC Challenge, following a pair of long time interconference series that were concluded last season. The ACC-Big Ten Challenge was scrapped after running for 23 consecutive seasons, while the Big 12/SEC Challenge ended after 10 years.

--Field Level Media