Mississippi State, Mississippi Valley State gearing up for league play

NCAA

Mississippi State is using its pre-conference schedule to prepare for the rigors of the SEC schedule.

Mississippi Valley State is facing a series of SEC teams during its pre-conference schedule to get ready for its conference season.

The in-state rivals meet Monday night in Starkville, Miss.

MSU is just 4-3, but it is 4-0 at home and has won those games by an average of 15.5 points, including its most recent victory — 81-65 over Central Arkansas on Wednesday.

Bulldogs coach Ben Howland changed his starting lineup by inserting Jalen Johnson in place of Cameron Matthews. Johnson responded by scoring a season-high 15 points.

Johnson had been part of the rotation, but saw his minutes reduced in a double overtime loss to Dayton on Dec. 12.

“What I love about him is when he played sparingly against Dayton, he had a great attitude,” Howland said. “He wasn’t pouting, and he was mature. It shows me how much he cares about his team and about winning.”

Johnson made 3 of 5 3-pointers in 29 minutes against Central Arkansas.

“When I got out there, I wanted to make a good first impression as a starter, and I think I did that,” Johnson said. “(Being able to score) opens up the floor.”

The Delta Devils (0-7) are playing their entire pre-conference schedule on the road.

They already have played SEC opponents in Arkansas, losing 142-62, and Vanderbilt, losing 84-41. They played the Commodores in their last game Dec. 13 and shot just 25 percent.

“I was always taught you learn more from adversity than you do from success,” Delta Devils coach Lindsey Hunter said. “I take that to heart. I don’t take for granted any game that I’ve ever coached or played in.

“There’s a lesson to be learned in all of it and I really take that seriously.”

Hunter played 17 seasons in the NBA and played on two championship teams. His first MVSU team finished 3-27 last season.

The Delta Devils’ top returning player is Hunter’s son, Caleb, the reigning SWAC Freshman of the Year.

MVSU, which has lost its games by an average of 45 points, won’t play a home game until its second conference game Jan. 9 against Alabama A&M.

This is the last nonconference game for MVSU and the last pre-conference game for MSU.

–Field Level Media

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