By Brandon Shields
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Xavian Stapleton scored 12 points on four 3-pointers as Mississippi State held off Southern Miss 70-64 in the second annual Capital City Showdown at the Mississippi Coliseum on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs have now four in a row over Southern Miss and are off to their first 11-1 start since the 2011-2012 season.
“Xavian was big for us tonight especially when he hit two big threes,” said third-year Mississippi State coach Ben Howland. “Fortunate to get come out of here with a win, Southern Miss had a great game plan and was patient on offense. Good teams find a way to win even though things weren’t going great.”
Mississippi State shot 52 percent from the field and would outscore Southern Miss 28-20 in the paint.
Aric Holman, Nick Weatherspoon and Lamar Peterson would add 10 points apiece for Mississippi State. Tyson Carter and Quinndary Weatherspoon would chip in seven points each for the Bulldogs.
“We made a bunch of big plays down the stretch in the second half when we had to,” Howland said. “We also had a lot of fortunate bounces go our way.”
Cortez Edwards led Southern Miss (7-6) with 22 points and four steals, Kevin Holland added 11 points. Trailing 36-27 at halftime, Southern Miss would open the second half on a 19-9 run to take a 46-45 lead with 10:07 left in the game off a Tim Rowe lay-up.
The Golden Eagles would take their biggest lead 53-49 with just under six minutes to go, but then Stapleton would hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Mississippi State the lead for good at 56-54 with 4:49 left.
The Golden Eagles have lost two in a row following a four-game winning streak.
“Mississippi State made a couple of big plays late to come out with a win and that is what good teams are supposed to do,” said fourth-year Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler. “I’m disappointed of how we didn’t come out in the first half more aggressive. We’ve got to come out and play like we did the second half for 40 minutes and not for 20.”
Mississippi State: The Bulldog bench would outscore Southern Miss 28-7. Mississippi State did turn the ball over 16 times for the second time in the last three games and shot just 35 percent from three-point range (7-for-20).
Southern Miss Would score 26 points off turnovers, but the Mississippi State size was a little too much for them to overcome. The undersized Golden Eagles only shot 34 percent from behind the arc (9-for-26).
Mississippi State will play its last non-conference game Saturday against North Florida before opening SEC play against Arkansas on Jan. 2 Southern Miss will open Conference USA play on Thursday at Marshall, which has won five of its last six games. The Thundering Herd’s lone loss in that six game stretch is to No. 9 Xavier.