By Robert Wilson
Mississippi State freshman guard and Madison-Ridgeland Academy alumnus Josh Hubbard – the 2022 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year and two-time PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Year – made a 3-pointer in the final 2 minutes to slow down a Southern Miss run and the Bulldogs defeated the Golden Eagles 60-54 Sunday afternoon at Southern Miss’ Reed Green Coliseum in Hattiesburg.
More importantly, the two teams played the exhibition game Sunday afternoon to raise money for the victims from a tornado in North Mississippi from earlier this year.
City Impact (cityimpact.org) was one of the non-profit organizations helping with donations for the event.
“When people make a donation, we are able to multiply that donation through collaborative efforts, so every dollar we receive is worth a hundred dollars,” said City Impact spokesperson JD Smith said at halftime in the Southern Miss radio show with play-by-play announcer John Cox. “This is locally led effort to build communities in Mississippi. These two fine institutions playing today are rising awareness to help the victims and are thankful for their efforts. Seventy percent of the people in Rolling Fork rents houses and the majority of their houses were wiped out. Rolling Fork Rising is local non-profit, and we are partnering with them to build home for homeowners and help finance for them who could never afford one. All of the money donated to this event with be used to help Mississippi.”
Tornadoes devastated the towns of Rolling Fork, Midnight, and Silver City in the southern part of the Mississippi Delta March 24 with winds that reached 195 miles per hour, killing 17 people and injuring hundreds of others. It also caused damage as it went eastward across North Mississippi, especially in the town of Amory.
Miskelly Furniture in Pearl was the company which spearheaded this event.
“It was a great day for Mississippi no matter which team won,” Oscar Miskelly said. “Although Mississippi State scored more points, both teams benefited from the exhibition game. It was a really hard-fought game that you could tell both teams really wanted to win – unlike a lot of exhibition games that are played. I said Mississippi won because the Delta region, particularly Rolling Fork, was the beneficiary of today’s game as proceeds from the game will be administrated by City Impact, a global mission organization that rebuilds communities devastated by storms. It was a great atmosphere and I say everybody was a winner that was in Reed Green Coliseum today.”
“I want to thank (MSU head coach) Chris Jans, his staff and the MSU administration for the willingness to play this game for the good of Mississippi,” Southern Miss coach Jay Ladner said on his postgame radio show with John Cox. “It was a great environment for a great cause against a quality opponent. We are disappointed but we see what it is going to take to defeat a team that is going to be the NCAA tournament and is in the preseason Top 25. We were a play here, a play there from getting it done. We need to keep this going and do this again in the future. It’s a great for us and for MSU to prepare for the season by playing an exhibition against a Division I opponent.”
The NCAA allows a Division I team to play an exhibition game against another Division I team if it is for a charity.
“The great thing about today was it felt like a game that’s going to matter in the win-loss column,” Jans said. “The Bulldogs coming into Southern Miss was obviously a big deal, and that’s why we accepted the challenge.”
Hubbard led MSU with a team-high 13 points, including 10 in the second half and five in the final two minutes. MSU is playing without All-SEC forward Tolu Smith, who out indefinitely after suffering a foot injury earlier this month.
Hubbard – Mississippi’s all-time leading scorer who averaged 27.1 points and made 117 3-pointers as a senior at MRA – made 3 of 6 from 3-point range Sunday afternoon, including the key shot late in the game.
“It’s always been a comfortable shot for me since high school,” Hubbard said. “I work on it in practice a lot. Coach Jans believes in me and gives me the freedom to shoot that shot. The shot clock was winding down, and I took it.”
“He doesn’t play like a freshman,” Jans said. “It’s pretty easy to see he’s got a calm, cool demeanor about him. It’s a luxury for us to have him. He can really shoot the basketball. He’s certainly got a lot to learn. He made a couple of mistakes down the stretch, but that’s why you play in these games – to put these guys in those situations.”
Senior forward Victor Hart led Southern Miss with 15 points and 11 rebounds and senior guard Austin Crowley had 13 points. Southern Miss was missing two starters, Neftali Alvarez and Andre Curbelo.
It is the first time MSU has played at Southern Miss since the 1995-1996 season, the same year Richard Williams led the Bulldogs to the SEC Tournament championship and the NCAA Final Four. MSU defeated Southern Miss 72-69 in overtime. The two teams last played six years ago and MSU won 70-64 in Starkville.
MSU’s next game against Arizona State Nov. 8 in Chicago in the Barstool Sports Invitational.
Southern Miss’ next game is against NAIA William Carey Nov. 6 at Southern Miss.
MSU, in Jans’ first season, finished 21-13 and reached the NCAA Tournament last season. Southern Miss finished 25-8, won the Sun Belt Conference regular season championship and played in the NIT last season.