Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Rick Cleveland: USM & MSU renew rivalry

The recent report that Mississippi State and Southern Miss will renew their basketball rivalry came as welcomed news to this observer.

State and USM will play four games over the next four Decembers, all in Mississippi Coliseum in the Capital City. Good for State. Good for USM. Good for Jackson. Good for Mississippi basketball.


This year's game will come not quite 54 years after I first saw the two teams play in January of 1963 in what was then the sparkling, new Mississippi Coliseum. Now seems a good time to reminisce.

John F. Kennedy was president. Ross Barnett was the governor. Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Babe McCarthy was the State coach. Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Lee Floyd coached the then-Mississippi Southern Southerners.

To a 10-year-old future sports writer, the so-called Big House really did seem huge back then. So did the crowd that packed what was then by far the biggest arena in the state.

This was just two months before Mississippi State would defy Barnett's orders and leave the state to play integrated Loyola in the NCAA Tournament. That State team, which featured future Hall of Famers Red Stroud and Doug Hutton, was heavily favored and for good reason.

McCarthy's Bulldogs were terrific. They had been champions of the Southeastern Conference in three of the previous four seasons, but weren't allowed to compete in the NCAA Tournament because of the state's stance on segregation. The 1962-63 Bulldogs might not have been McCarthy's best team but they were a mighty good one.

Floyd was in his first season back at Southern after leaving the school and the coaching profession eight years earlier to go into private business. The Southerners were rebuilding, but they did feature two outstanding guards in Jackie Laird and Charlie Payne.

From the opening tip, it was obvious that State wasn't going to have an easy time. Laird and Payne matched Stroud and Hutton shot for shot. The Bulldogs held a narrow lead at halftime and the game remained close until the final moments. The Southern fans, sensing a huge upset, were really into it. I mean, really into it.

Back then, fans on the lower rows of the coliseum sat in metal, folding chairs. (I think some of those same chairs are still used on press row to this day.) Late in the game, with State holding a narrow lead, an official whistled Southern for a foul near the sideline.

I'll never forget what happened next. A Southern fan (seated right in front of me) stood, reached back and grabbed his chair, lifted it over his head, and then heaved it at the official. Thankfully, he narrowly missed, wide left. While State shot free throws, police officers escorted the offending fan from the Coliseum. He wasn't around when the final buzzer sounded in a 62-52 State victory.

Other than that one incident, the game was what in-state rivalries should be: well-attended, hotly contested, meaningful.

The Golden Eagles and Bulldogs have played several memorable games over the years, including Southern's 65-60 victory over State the following season.

Perhaps the best of all the State-USM games came in December of 1995, three months before Richard Williams' Bulldogs would win the SEC Tournament, advance through four straight games in the NCAA Tournament and eventually reach the Final Four at The Meadowlands.

That game, too, featured Hall of Fame coaches, Williams and USM's M.K. Turk. That wasn't one of Turk's better USM teams, but the Golden Eagles played as if their lives depended on the outcome that night and were boosted by sellout crowd at Green Coliseum. State needed an overtime to win 72-69. Again, the game had all the ingredients of what an in-state rivalry should be.

Ben Howland currently is rebuilding State's program. Doc Sadler, through no fault of his own, is trying to pick up the NCAA probation-ravaged pieces at USM. No matter, their meeting on Dec. 19 will add some spice to the non-conference basketball schedules of both. That's what in-state rivalries do.


Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist and historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His email address is rcleveland@msfame.com.​

5 comments:

Hattiesburg Sewer Rat said...

USM alum/fan here. Tough for me to give a crap about hoops so long as Doc Sadler is our coach. But I like this series. We had a 2-1-1 (2 in Oxford, 1 in Southaven, 1 in Hattiesburg) with Ole Miss basketball in the past but when Eustachy left the series died.

Hearing a possible 2-1 between USM/MSU is on the table in football.

Dawg On! said...

As a season ticket holder to football games at both schools, I can't get energized about basketball. With all due respect to hoops, lets see some in-state rivalry started back up between USM, MSU and OM. Will it ever happen?

Anonymous said...

4:26 here. I don't think you'll ever see Ole Miss play USM ever again. From a USM perspective I would love to see it, but I get why they won't do it. Not a huge deal.

Like I said earlier, you may see State and USM agree to a 2 Starkville-1 Hattiesburg deal.

Anonymous said...

USM and MSU have pretty good A.D.'s. I think they both see the benefits of some limited competition against the other schools. As long as Ole Miss has their current A.D., they will never play USM. As a USM fan and ticket holder, that's perfectly fine with me. But given the current state of things, Bjerk may not be the A.D. much longer. So we will see. But I am glad to see USM/MSU playing hoops in Jackson.

Anonymous said...

4:26 "gets why they won't do it". Please share. If MSU will agree to play USM there is no reason OM should not. But, wait.....you were about to share.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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