Thu, 20 Jan 2022

Minnesota puts perfect record on the line at Mississippi State

Field Level Media
05 Dec 2021, 06:55 GMT+10

Minnesota will try to maintain its perfect start to the season when it visits Mississippi State in a nonconference matchup Sunday afternoon in Starkville, Miss.

The Golden Gophers (6-0) are coming off a 54-53 road victory at Pitt on Tuesday night. Minnesota has won half of its games by single digits, including a double-overtime win over Princeton on Nov. 14.

A win would give Minnesota its first 7-0 start since the 2017-18 season.

First-year head coach Ben Johnson has emphasized a consistent point since he joined the program.

"The toughness piece is big," Johnson said. "We want to be a program that's both mentally and physically tough. It's important for our fans to see that we're going to have that grit, that fight, that toughness, that demeanor. If that means there's a play to be made to win the game, we've got to make that play."

Mississippi State (6-1) hopes to spoil the Golden Gophers' hot start. The Bulldogs are looking for their third straight win after posting back-to-back victories over Richmond in overtime and Lamar in regulation.

Four players are averaging double-digit scoring for Mississippi State including Iverson Molinar (16.0 points per game), Tolu Smith (15.3), Shakeel Moore (11.3) and Garrison Brooks (10.7). D.J. Jeffries is not far behind at 9.6 points per game.

Smith had two double-doubles in his first three games of the season, including a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Lamar. He has thrived in his sooner-than-expected return from offseason foot surgery.

"His recovery has been amazing," head coach Ben Howland said. "Tolu's only had six practices and he's playing at a high level. I don't take it for granted."

The Golden Gophers are led in scoring by Jamison Battle, who is averaging 17.5 points per game. Payton Willis is averaging 16.3 points per contest while shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range.

This will be the first all-time meeting between the teams. Minnesota has not played a Southeastern Conference opponent since Dec. 9, 2017, when it lost to Arkansas.

--Field Level Media

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