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MSU Men’s Hoops Batters Mississippi Valley State, 87-48

STARKVILLE – Iverson Molinar ignited a five-player attack in double figures as the Mississippi State men’s basketball team posted a convincing 87-48 victory over Mississippi Valley State to close out the December portion of their nonconference slate on Monday evening at Humphrey Coliseum.

The Bulldogs (5-3) improved their SEC-leading home winning streak to 13 straight games which also ranks among the top three in the Power 5.

Mississippi State now boasts a 42-4 non-conference ledger under Ben Howland and have won all five of their non-conference contests by an average of 20.0 points per contest.

Mississippi State has won 39 of its 42 games when holding the opposition to under 60 points with Howland at the helm with 32 of those 42 outings coming inside Humphrey Coliseum. The 39-point margin of victory for the Bulldogs is the second-largest during the Howland era.

Molinar piled up his fifth consecutive game in double figures and stuffed the box score with 12 of his team-leading 18 points during the opening half. He also garnered five rebounds, five assists versus zero turnovers and two steals.

D.J. Stewart Jr. and Tolu Smith eclipsed 10-plus points for the eight straight game to start the season. The last duo to accomplish that feat was Cameron Burns and Greg Carter, who started Mississippi State’s 1990-91 SEC championship season with a 12-game run.

Stewart Jr. and Tolu Smith managed 15 and 13 points, respectively, and were an efficient 11-of-16 from the floor. Tolu Smith also amassed 12 rebounds for his third double-double over his last four appearances and notched his fourth overall double dip on the season.

Jalen Johnson and Quinten Post chipped in 10 points apiece. The 10 points for Post were a career-high, while Johnson has collected double-digit points in his first two starts in Maroon and White. Johnson drained a pair of threes 36 seconds apart during the first 4:41 of the contest, while Post provided a spark with a pair of dunks in the second half.

Mississippi State handed out a season’s best 19 assists on its 33 field goals. The Bulldogs also worked their way to a 47-24 rebounding advantage, a 17-2 edge in second-chance points, dominated the painted area on a healthy 38-6 spread and fired in a season-high 27 bench points.

Mississippi State hit on 33-of-59 from the field (55.9 percent), dialed up nine triples on 23 attempts (39.1 percent) and sank 12-of-22 from the foul line (54.5 percent). The Bulldogs made the most of 16 turnovers from Mississippi Valley State (0-8) to score 19 points.

The Delta Devils were bottled up for a 17-of-55 shooting effort (30.9 percent), connected on 10-of-39 on their three-pointers (25.6 percent) and 4-of-5 at the charity stripe (80.0 percent). MVSU was led by Terry Collins and Devin Gordon, who scored 17 and 16 points, respectively.

FROM THE BENCH – COACH HOWLAND

“I thought we did a good job defensively, for the most part. Give them credit, they showed a lot of patience offensively, more so than they had in previous games. I thought it really helped them. They’re harder to defend when they make you play for longer periods of time. This game, the final score did not feel like we won by 40, to be honest with you. I’m glad that we got everybody a chance to play tonight. We got everybody on our team a chance to get out there and get a minute or two at least.”

“I thought Tolu [Smith] did a really good job tonight, another double-double. Iverson [Molinar] and D.J. [Stewart Jr.] are fast forming one of the best backcourts in the SEC, in my opinion. Abdul [Ado] does so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He had two great screens when they were trying to ice the pick-and-roll and the side ball screen. He got Iverson right in the lane for easy opportunities to attack.”

“Right now, the bottom line is the SEC is a whole new season. Everything starts over, in terms of SEC play. Once it starts, it never stops. 19 games [with Iowa State in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge], and they’re coming at you. Starting at Georgia is tough. It’s a grind. It’s going to be a real challenge. Our league is so good. Arkansas, with how well they’ve played. Tennessee, who hasn’t had a game within 20 or 30 [points], I don’t think. We have some teams that are really playing well in our conference right now. We’re just on to the next game, which is Georgia. He’s a very good coach, Tom Crean, and that’s going to be a big challenge.

FROM THE LOCKER ROOM – QUINTEN POST

“I think I have got a lot more use to it. I kind of know what Coach [Howland] expects from me. My mindset is just to get out there and play as hard as possible on defense and try to really pressure the ball in ball screens. If I am open, I shoot the ball. I try to get as many rebounds as possible. That is kind of what I try to do. So yes, I know my role now. I just try to go as hard as possible.”

 

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

All square at 7-7 at the 16:52 mark, Mississippi State kicked into high gear with five consecutive field goals and ripped off 11 of the next 13 points to surge ahead 19-9 with 13:46 remaining.

Tolu Smith opened the barrage with an offensive rebound and a putback layup. Then, Jalen Johnson provided consecutive triples from the right wing and the right baseline 36 seconds apart. Tolu Smith tacked on a slam dunk off a nice feed from Iverson Molinar, and Molinar hit a runner in the paint to make it a 10-point advantage.

The Bulldogs stretched their lead to 42-25 at halftime. Mississippi State scored 18 of the game’s 20 paint points, and Molinar pumped home 12 of his team-leading 18 points during the opening 20 minutes.

Mississippi State scored the first nine points of the second half. A Johnson steal and layup followed by a pair of D.J. Stewart Jr. free throws pushed the spread to 51-25 with 16:25 left.

The Bulldogs continued to extend the lead as Molinar knocked down a trey at the top of the key. Quinten Post tacked on consecutive jams, the latest a traditional three-point play to bring the tally to 76-44 with 4:07 to go.

Andersson Garcia turned defense into offense with a steal and an emphatic one-handed stuff. Keondre Montgomery sank back-to-back buckets, and Justin Rumph delivered the finishing touches with a left wing three-pointer for the final margin of 87-48.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State embarks on its 18-game SEC slate with a trip to Georgia on 12/30. The only other time these two sets of Bulldogs have met in Athens to start SEC action was during the 1954-55 season. The SEC opener on 12/30 is the earliest for State since defeating Vanderbilt, 74-71, on 12/19/1991.

Tip time is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT from Stegeman Coliseum televised by the SEC Network and available online courtesy of the Watch ESPN app.

Visit www.HailState.com for the latest news and information on the men’s basketball program. Fans also can follow the program on its social media outlets by searching ‘HailStateMBK’ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.