Bell rings up win for MS State by playing Santa Claus

Bell rings up win for MS State by playing Santa Claus

19 hours ago
Mississippi State Athletics

Photo: Mississippi State Athletics

NEWARK, N.J. – While the world awaits the arrival of Santa Claus, Mississippi State’s Jimmy Bell Jr. went ahead and gave the Bulldogs an early present Saturday in the Gotham Classic.

The transfer center had his best game in Maroon and White yet as he led the way to State’s 70-60 victory over Rutgers at the Prudential Center.

“It was an emphasis [to get the ball to Bell] for a majority of the day,” State head coach Chris Jans said. “I thought early, we were missing him. He was open, but for whatever reason, we had a hard time making the passes…But in the second half, [that changed]. He was terrific. He was our anchor today.”

Bell notched his third double-double of the season racking up 17 points and pulling down 18 rebounds. He also blocked three shots and had an assist in what was a complete performance by the veteran big man.

“He probably could’ve done even more,” Jans said. “He missed a couple of bunnies that he usually doesn’t, but he was really, really good.”

Saturday’s showing was just the latest example of the value Bell has brought to this year’s State squad. While the Bulldogs await the return of All-SEC center Tolu Smith III from injury, Bell has done his part to make sure neither Smith nor the Dawgs have to be in any rush.

Through 12 games this season, Bell is nearly averaging a double-double with 9.6 points and 9.4 boards per game. His play has been one of the most critically important pieces to the Bulldogs’ 10-2 start.

Of course, no victory is a one-man show. Bell had plenty of help as the Dawgs took down the Scarlet Knights.

Cameron Matthews delivered a double-double of his own with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Dashawn Davis scored 13, dished out seven assists and had four steals. Shakeel Moore scored 10 and grabbed five rebounds.

All hands were needed as well in what was a nip-and-tuck affair for much of the day. Rutgers led by as many as five points midway through the first half and the two teams were never separated by more than six points until deep into the second half. Fittingly, it was Bell who put State on the fast track to the triumph.

Rutgers held a slight edge for much of the early portion of the contest. With 10:07 remaining in the opening period, the Scarlet Knights went up 20-15 following a pair of Mawot Mag free throws. That’s when a 10-0 State run fueled by Bell flipped the script.

A D.J. Jeffries 3-pointer got MSU within two at 20-18. Then, after a pair of Bell makes from the charity stripe tied the game, his jumper with six minutes until the half gave the Dawgs the lead. They’d never trail again.

Rutgers did use a quick 5-0 run at the end of the first half to send the two teams into the locker rooms tied 29-all. However, Bell again proved to be instrumental when he scored the first four points after the intermission and State led the rest of the way. MSU built its advantage all the way up to 15 points at one point before settling for the 10-point win.

In addition to winning where it counts, State also dominated Rutgers on the boards, outrebounding the Scarlet Knights 47-26. The Dawgs also got to the free throw line 12 more times than Rutgers and excelled, making 22 of 26 freebies.

It was, by any measure, a satisfying way to head into a brief holiday break.

“I can’t put it into words [how good it is to win ahead of Christmas],” Jans said. “I know my wife and kids were at home watching this game and they are so relieved and overjoyed. Family back in Iowa is so excited they don’t have to deal with me after a loss. Last year, we had the loss going into the break, and it wasn’t a lot of fun…But I’ll have zero excuse this year and [the break] couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We really need it. Our guys need it and deserve it. We’re looking forward to it.”

Up Next

Mississippi State will return to action on New Year’s Eve. The Bulldogs are slated for a 2 p.m. tip against Bethune-Cookman on Sunday, December 31 at Humphrey Coliseum.

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