MSU And Southern Miss Slated For NIT Backyard Brawl

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ The National Invitational Tournament has given Mississippi basketball fans a matchup that they have been clamoring for. Southern Mississippi (22-8) will play Mississippi State (16-12) at Starkville on Wednesday night in the first round of the NIT. Southern Miss was knocked out of the Conference USA tournament in the semifinals by Charlotte, and was left out of the NCAA field announced Sunday. Any chance Mississippi State had of reaching the NCAA tournament was doused when the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. Mississippi State and Southern Miss have played 17 times, but not since 1996, when the Bulldogs beat the Golden Eagles 72-69 in overtime at Hattiesburg. The two played at Biloxi in 1995 with Southern Miss winning 66-64. Mississippi State holds a 13-4 lead in the series and is 5-0 in games played at Starkville. The Bulldogs have played in the NIT four times, but only once have they gotten past the first round. In the 1995 NIT, Mississippi State beat Baylor in Starkville before losing at New Orleans. Mississippi State last played in the NIT in 1999 and lost to Colorado State in Fort Collins, Co. Southern Miss will be making its eighth NIT appearance and first since 1998 when the Golden Eagles lost in round one to Auburn. The Golden Eagles won the 1987 NIT title.