STARKVILLE, MS – January 10, 2024 – Mississippi State Guard Josh Hubbard (#13) during the game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, MS. Photo By Mike Mattina

By Robert Wilson

       Southeastern Conference basketball fans found out Wednesday night what Madison-Ridgeland Academy coach Richard Duease found out years ago.

       Josh Hubbard is a volume scorer. In other words, the MRA alumnus and Mississippi State freshman can score in bunches and fill up a scoresheet.

       The 5-foot-10 Hubbard scored 25 points, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range, in 28 minutes off the bench to lead MSU to a 77-72 upset of No. 5 Tennessee at MSU’s Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville. It was the first time since 2002 MSU had defeated a Top 5 team.

       It was MSU’s first SEC win of the season and improved the Bulldogs to 12-3 overall and 1-1 in the SEC.

       Scoring is nothing new for Hubbard. He is Mississippi’s all-time leading scorer with 4,367 points. Hubbard has transitioned to the next level and continued to score. He is averaging 14.5 points per game, 14th best in the SEC, and sixth best in the nation among freshmen. Hubbard is shooting 38.8 percent from 3-point range, second best in the SEC and second best in the country among freshmen. He ranks fifth in the SEC with an 86.0 free throw percentage and would rank second in the country among freshmen if he had enough attempts to qualify.

       If Hubbard continues his pace, he is within range of school records for most 3-pointers in a season (Darryl Wilson, 97 in 1995-96), best 3-point percentage (Wilson, 41.4 in 1994-95) and best free throw percentage (Tyson Carter, 87.1 in 2019-2020).

       Duease watched Hubbard score 46 points and hit the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against perineal MHSAA Class 6A power Gulfport in his third game as a high school freshman five years ago.

       Hubbard went on to have a brilliant next four years, increasing his scoring average every year. He averaged 27.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.1 steals and led MRA to a 34-8 record, the MAIS Class 6A state championship and a semifinal finish in the Overall Tournament last season and was named the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. He broke a 37-year-old record held by Robert Woodard of Houlka, who also played at MSU. Hubbard was ranked No. 73 in the country and No. 1 player in Mississippi in the Class of 2023 by ESPN. He was a two-time PriorityOne Bank/Missisisppi Scoreboard Metro Player of the Year and first team All-Metro Jackson as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

       Despite all those accomplishments, some questioned if he could perform at the SEC level, but this year he has answered those questions with an emphatic yes. And he has become one of the top freshmen in the country despite not starting a game and playing only 23.3 minutes per game.

       He is now getting even more open shots now that All-SEC center Tolu Smith is back after a foot injury. Smith had 24 points in his second game back against Tennessee and was a big a factor in the win.

“I said before the game Hubbard and Tolu has to score for State to win,” said Duease, Mississippi’s career leader in wins and the second winningest active boys basketball coach in the country. “I thought Coach (Chris) Jans did a great job leaving Hubb in the game. Hubb is a volume scorer. He can shoot the ball and the more he does, the more comfortable he becomes. Five from 10 from 3 isn’t bad. The things people saw last night I was seeing in the eighth and ninth grade. The crossover dribble. The long 3s. In order for State to win, Hubb is the guy they need to score. We knew he could score early on. He hung 46 on Gulfport as a ninth grader. We knew he could score early on. Hubb is built for this. He’s been working on this all his life and it’s coming to fruition.”

Hubbard took in the moment of the historic win.

“It was unbelievable,” Hubbard said. “The environment was crazy. It was the first time to experience the SEC (at home) and I couldn’t have done it without the team. We all stayed positive through adversity.”

“He (Hubbard) could score the ball,” Jans said. “The guys have learned to trust him and understand that he’s a weapon for us. When a kid comes in like that and scores in bunches, there are potentially issues among the team. I give our kids credit for not having those issues and realizing that he can make everybody better. He gets in zones and is a tough guard. We see it in practice sometimes, he has a stoic demeanor never gets too high or low and he’s beyond his years.”

Hubbard’s father, Jason, was also excited about the win and his son being a big part of big win.

“I told my wife (Betty) when we were walking from the parking lot to the Hump, I had a strong feeling that we would win against Tennessee,” Hubbard said. “When I saw our team warming up again, I had a strong feeling, this would be a game changer for our team. When Tolu started dominating in the early part of the first half again, I felt it was going to be a great night for our Dawgs. When Josh started hitting 3s and getting the crowd involved, I knew it was about to be crazy at the Hump. Josh has worked really hard for these types of games, and I knew he was prepared. Words can’t describe what I was feeling once we got a foothold on the game. Our team came together and merged as one team and got the win. I’m beyond proud of our entire family to be a part of such an amazing university. Mississippi State is where God established us and for that I’m eternally grateful.”