For the first 8 to 10 minutes of the first half, the game was a see-saw affair with Mississippi State starting off the game by taking a 10-6 lead in the first four minutes of the game. Tulane then outscored the Bulldogs 9-1 to take a 15-11 lead only to see Mississippi State take the lead back, 22-15, on a 11-0 run. Mississippi State never trailed in the ball game from that point on.
In the second half, Mississippi State pushed their lead out to 14, 46-32, only to see Tulane cut it back to a seven-point deficit, 49-42. Mississippi State would then extend the lead back out to 55-42 behind the play of true freshman center Marcus Campbell who scored 4 of the 6 points MSU scored during that period. The closet Tulane would get from that point on was six points, 66-60 and 68-62. Mississippi State, after Tulane cut it to six at the 5:30 mark, would allow Tulane just 4 free throws the rest of the way to seal the victory.
"(Our players) came down here against a very, very good Tulane basketball team who were playing their best basketball of the season and kind of control the game from the tip," said Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury. "We came out with a great win."
Mississippi State, the top shooting team in the SEC with a 50.3% shooting percentage, shot the ball extremely well the entire night, making 70% of its field goals in the first half and 59% in the second half to end the night at 65%. Mississippi State has now shot 54% or better in 9 of their 14 games. Tulane, on the other hand, shot the ball poorly, hitting just 40% of their shots. They came into the game shooting 51% for the season.
"Offensively, Tulane is a very, very good basketball team but we kept Tulane from ever getting into their rhythm," said Stansbury. "Once they get into a rhythm, they are as good as anybody you will play against. To our kids credit, they never let that happen."
Mississippi State, the second best rebounding team in the SEC, also outrebounded Tulane 34-27.
Trailing Mississippi State's Timmy Bowers' career-high point total was Mario Austin with 15 points (7-of-7 from the field), while Michal Ignerski scored 13 and Marckell Patterson 10. True freshman center 7-0 Marcus Campbell came off the bench to score 6 points and grab 3 rebounds in 5 minutes of play in the second half.
"I really thought Timmy Bowers was tremendous, offensively and defensively, for us," said Stansbury.
Stansbury also noted Marcus Campbell's and Michael Ignerski's play.
"I really thought that Marcus started showing progress out at the Las Vegas tournament. We developed some confidence in him tonight. He didn't play a lot of minutes, but those five minutes he gave us in the second half were productive minutes. He added to the team. That is what you want from guys who come off the bench.
"(Michael) is starting to play a little bit more like he was before he got hurt, even though he is not full-speed yet. He still has some swelling in his ankle. He was more comfortable tonight."
With his 11 assists in Saturday's game, Zimmerman pushes his league-leading assists per game average from 6.6 to 6.9. Aaron Lewis of South Carolina is number two with 5.45 assists per game.
"I thought that Derrick Zimmerman did a terrific job out there, defensively," said Stansbury. "Whenever you have a point guard who gets 11 rebounds, 11 assists and basically handles the ball for 40 minutes, that is some type of toughness."
Tulane was led in scoring by Brandon Brown's 21. Other Green Wave players in double figures were Brandon Brown with 18 points and Wayne Tinsley with 10.
The attendance for the game was 3,859.
Mississippi State now takes a week off before starting SEC play by facing the 6th ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Starkville next Saturday at 1 p.m.
"Next Saturday starts a new journey for us," said Stansbury referring to Kentucky. "We need the Hump packed. Kentucky is one of the best basketball teams in America and we need every bit of energy that we can get. We need the Hump packed. Tell everybody to be there by 12."
By the way, Mississippi State's biggest home crowd is 10,315. Let's see how close we can come to setting a new record next Saturday.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.