Mississippi State basketball is coming to Tupelo next season.
The school announced this morning that Rick Ray‘s Bulldogs will take on Southeastern Louisiana at BancorpSouth Arena on Dec. 13. It’ll be the first time in 10 years that MSU has played in Tupelo; it beat New Orleans, 77-59, on Dec. 16, 2003. State is 3-0 at BSA, including wins over Northwestern in 1998 and UT-Martin in 1997.
MSU has traditionally played a non-conference game in Jackson every year, but it appears that Tupelo will be getting that game every other year. There will be no Jackson game next season, marking the first time since the 2003-04 season State won’t play at Mississippi Coliseum.
“Tupelo has always been a supportive and very strong fan base for Mississippi State athletics, and we are glad that we are able to return the favor by playing a game for those fans in Tupelo,” Ray said in a statement. “My hope would be to alternate games every season between Tupelo and Jackson in order to reach out to Mississippi State supporters in both communities.”
BancorpSouth, which seats 8,000, is currently undergoing a $1.6 million renovation. It’s hosted a variety of sporting events in the past, including the Gulf South Conference basketball tournament and the MHSAA Grand Slam basketball tournament.
This will be the first college basketball game played at BancorpSouth Arena since Nov. 21, 2010, when Memphis beat LSU.
“Obviously this has been something we’ve been trying to accomplish for the last – I guess I came back here in ’07, and we’ve been chasing a ballgame ever since,” said Todd Hunt, the arena’s executive director. “We were happy to finally get that to come to pass.”
Shortly after being hired last April, Ray expressed a desire to play a game in Tupelo.
“We have conversations every year with both MSU and Ole Miss trying to convince them to come play a game with us,” Hunt said. “That period between when exams are over for December for the fall semester and the SEC play begins in January, we know that there’s not a lot of students on campus. It’s hard to get fans to come in to those games in December when you play them on campus. So we think it’s natural to bring them to town.”
Hunt said that he’s spoken with Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork about the Rebels playing in Tupelo, but “we just haven’t been able to make it happen yet.”
MSU went 10-22 (4-14 SEC) in Ray’s first season as head coach.
Tipoff time and ticket information will be announced at a later date.