Howland Collects 500th Win as Men’s Hoops Dumps Texas State, 68-51
STARKVILLE – D.J. Stewart Jr. racked up 13 of his career-high 23 points in the second half as Mississippi State stretched a two-point halftime edge into a 68-51 victory over Texas State for head coach Ben Howland’s 500th career win during Monday’s home opener at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (1-2) have amassed 11 straight wins in home openers dating back to the 2009-10 season. Four of the six victories during the Howland era have come by double digit points.
For Stewart Jr., he was 9-of-14 from the floor and dialed up a career-best five triples. He also added three rebounds and two assists. Stewart Jr. has ripped off 20-plus points in back-to-back games.
Tolu Smith worked his way to 12 points and five rebounds. He was an efficient 6-of-7 at the free throw line and joined Stewart Jr. in double figures during Mississippi State’s first three games on the young season.
Quinten Post and Javian Davis provided a lift off the bench with strong all-around efforts. Post registered career-highs with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks followed by Davis, who turned in seven points and eight rebounds.
Abdul Ado, making his 100th career start in Maroon and White, notched seven points, five rebounds and two blocks. The two rejections enabled him to surpass Kalpatrick Wells (1980-81-82-83) into sole possession fifth place in program history whereas the five rebounds moved him past Terry Kusnierz (1972-73-74) into sole possession of 23rd place on MSU’s rebounding list.
Jalen Johnson chipped in six points and four rebounds as the Bulldogs held a 24-18 advantage in bench points. The Maroon and White won the battle of the boards for a third straight game by a healthy 46-27 margin. State piled up 15 offensive rebounds and collected 15 of the game’s 21 points on second chance opportunities.
Mississippi State received solid contributions from its freshmen class. Cameron Matthews garnered five assists against zero turnovers and secured two steals. Deivon Smith came away with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Keondre Montgomery knocked down his first career points in Maroon and White.
For the contest, MSU registered a 25-for-58 shooting clip (43.1 percent), 9-of-23 on three-pointers (39.1 percent) and 9-of-12 at the foul line (75.0 percent)
The Bulldogs handed out 17 assists against 15 turnovers. State hit on 15 of its 25 field goals inside the paint en route to 30-18 edge in paint points.
Texas State (2-1) was bottled up for a 17-of-53 mark from the field (32.1 percent), misfired on 11 of its 15 three-point attempts (26.7 percent) and sank 13-of-18 of its foul shots (72.2 percent). The Bobcats were led by 15 points courtesy of Mason Harrell.
FROM THE BENCH WITH COACH HOWLAND
“I thought that we did a really good job defensively in the second half, better than the first half, in terms of staying in front of the basketball and the plugs. They only shot 28 percent in the second half, so much better there. I thought Cameron Matthews had a couple of big plays to get us going. D.J. Stewart Jr. was fantastic all night. I thought Tolu [Smith], early in the game, was key for us in term of getting us off to good starts offensively. He made his foul shots. Ten turnovers in the first half is not ideal, but we did a much better job in the second half taking better care of the basketball.”
“I thought D.J. got it going there in the second half. Then, there were a couple big three’s by Jalen Johnson that really kind of broke the game. We got a lot of good minutes from our bench tonight. I thought both Javian Davis and Quinten Post came in and gave us quality minutes. Both of those guys had nine and seven points, respectively and played good defense. That was really good for them, especially for Quinten. This is really his first time playing tonight in a major role since he’s been here. He ended up playing 15 minutes, so I was very pleased for him. Looking at his stats, he got five rebounds, which really makes me feel good. I think we have a guy that’s going to come along for us there in Quinten Post.”
“It’s really special [getting his 500th career win]. I feel really blessed, and I am really blessed. I’ve coached so many great players, so many great kids. I told our team after the game is the biggest thing that I feel blessed about is that I’ve found something that I love to do. I’ve been doing it my whole life. That’s what you have to find as a person is whatever it is that you love, and that your passionate about to make that your life. It’s such a blessing. I don’t know how many people get a chance to do that, but I’m definitely one of them. I’m very thankful.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Texas State opened the contest with seven of the game’s first 10 points over the first 2:59 of the contest. Mason Harrell scored five of the seven points for the Bobcats.
Mississippi State found its rhythm and fired back with eight unanswered points to grab an 11-7 lead at the 15:11 mark. Tolu Smith got the Bulldogs rolling with five straight points, and D.J. Stewart Jr. capped the flurry with a three-ball from the left wing.
The two teams played within a four-point margin for the remainder of the first half, which featured four lead changes and three ties. Stewart Jr. and Tolu Smith combined for 19 first-half points, to allow the Bulldogs to carry a 26-24 advantage into the locker room.
All square at 26-26 with 18:41 to go in the second half, MSU found its groove from three-point territory. The Bulldogs exploded for a 24-6 run and limited Texas State to one field goal over a 7:46 stretch.
Mississippi State drained five triples during the spurt, two apiece courtesy of Jalen Johnson and Stewart Jr. and one from Quinten Post. A Post layup off a nice feed from Tolu Smith expanded the spread to a 50-32 margin with 10:55 remaining.
Ahead 53-37 with 6:17 left, Mississippi State kept its foot on the gas pedal and grasped its largest lead of the night, 62-39, off a pair of Abdul Ado slam dunks and another Stewart Jr. trey.
Keondre Montgomery tacked on his first bucket as a Bulldog on a midrange jumper from the left wing at the 2:31 mark. MSU improved to 37-4 and have won 25 of its last 27 decision under head coach Ben Howland when holding the opposition to under 60 points.
Mississippi State continues a three-game homestand and faces North Texas, the defending Conference USA regular season champions, on Friday. Tip time is on-tap for 7 p.m. CT and will be carried online only by SEC Network+.
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