The Mississippi State men’s basketball team has been without Tolu Smith for a while now. And while many teams would crumble when losing a player of that caliber, the Bulldogs are doing pretty well right now.
Fresh off a win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Mississippi State basketball head coach Chris Jans had plenty of praise for the way that Jimmy Bell Jr. and Cameron Matthews both stepped up in big ways in a huge game.
Following the 70-60 win over Rutgers, Jans made it clear that he didn’t know how the Bulldogs would be able to thrive without the production brought to Starkville by guys like Bell and Matthews.
"I can’t imagine where we’d be without it," Jans admitted during his press conference. “Jimmy [transferred to Mississippi State] knowing that Tolu was coming back. He had a lot of confidence in himself. Certainly, no one could have predicted that he would be in this position with playing a bigger role and more minutes than he’s used to.”
Mississippi State basketball: Chris Jans thrilled with how Jimmy Bell Jr., Cameron Matthews performed vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
And while many folks can’t wait until the Bulldogs are able to get Tolu back on the court, it’s clear that Jans is thrilled with how the Mississippi State men’s basketball team has played with Bell active.
"Certainly, we’re all excited about the idea of Tolu rejoining this team, but I don’t know where we’d be without [Bell Jr.],” Jans explained.
While both Bell and Matthews were expected to play key roles in helping the Bulldogs find success throughout this season, it wasn’t really expected that they’d flourish like this when facing a team like Rutgers. But they thrived against the Scarlet Knights as they combined for 35 points and 29 rebounds.
Together, the two are a formidable force. With Tolu back once he’s fully healthy, the Bulldogs will have a lot of talent in their frontcourt. Especially considering that somewhere along the way KeShawn Murphy will also continue to heal and improve.
"He had a lot of confidence in himself. Certainly, no one could have predicted that he would be in this position with playing a bigger role and more minutes than he’s used to," Jans noted.
“KeShawn Murphy is getting healthier as well,” Jans said. “He played a really big game against North Texas a week ago. He couldn’t get it going today, but he gives us a different look playing 5 small ball or 4 big ball with him.”