STARKVILLE – Challenges come in different forms. Winners find a way to overcome whatever adversity comes their way.
In its last two games, Mississippi State found itself in a couple of difficult spots. The Bulldogs saw a big lead slip away against Auburn and had to regroup. They had to fight back from a sizable deficit versus Kentucky. Both times State delivered and emerged victoriously.
The Dawgs topped the Tigers 72-58. They beat the Wildcats 77-76. They also showed head coach Sam Purcell exactly what they’re made of.
“You know what I learned this last week? We’re tough,” Purcell said after Sunday’s game. “[The way we beat Auburn and Kentucky], that’s toughness. We want something. We’re trying to go somewhere, but when adversity hits and you want something so bad and you see it in front of you and feel like you’re going to be denied, you’ve got to be tough. That’s what I felt this week. There’s a good juju in that locker room. I want them to enjoy it and just ride this wave.”
It’d be hard for this team to not be having fun right now. They’re winning. They’re solidly in the mix to go to the Big Dance come March, currently standing as one of the last four teams with a bye in the NCAA Tournament per ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s latest projections. And, maybe the most exciting thing of all is everyone is playing a part in this and picking each other up.
On Thursday against Auburn, MSU was down a couple of players. The rest of the roster stepped up.
There was JerKaila Jordan notching a double-double as she scored 14 points and brought down a career-high 12 rebounds.
“She does things that I’ve never seen some female players do,” Purcell said of Jordan. “She reminds me of [former NBA star Dwyane Wade] and I tell her, ‘You’ve got even more in the tank.'”
Asianae Johnson was forced into starting duty at point guard versus the Tigers. She responded with 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“She came here for the bright lights and big stage,” Purcell said of Johnson. “She’s been the ultimate team player coming off the bench and being [like a] Sixth Man of the Year. Then when the cards were dealt and she needed to step up [and start], she was great.”
The bench shined as well on Thursday.
“Also proud of some other unsung heroes,” Purcell noted. “Mia Moore, even though it was one minute and 31 seconds, her…