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MSU Men’s Hoops Outlasted by Dayton in Double OT, 85-82

TLANTA, Georgia – In a back-and-forth battle that featured 19 lead changes and 11 ties, the Mississippi State men’s basketball team had its game-tying attempt to send the contest into triple overtime hit off the back iron as Dayton emerged with an 85-82 double overtime win on Saturday at State Farm Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

The Bulldogs (3-3) have split its 12 double overtime decisions dating back to the 1956-57 season and fell to Dayton (3-1) for the first time in the four-game non-conference series.

D.J. Stewart Jr. exploded for 27 of his career-high 32 points during regulation. He was 13-of-22 shooting and hit on 3-of-5 of his triples. It marked Stewart Jr.’s third game of 20-plus points on the young season. The redshirt sophomore is the first MSU player to pour in 30-plus points in a game since Quinndary Weatherspoon tallied 31 at Georgia on 02/20/2019.

Stewart Jr. is the 12th sophomore in program history to notch 30-plus points during a game. The list features nine 1,000-point scorers which include Jim Ashmore (1853-54-55-56), Mario Austin (2001-02-03), Dee Bost (2009-10-11-12), Tyson Carter (2017-18-19-20), Larry Fry (1973-74-75), Bailey Howell (1957-58-59), Rich Knarr (1973-74-75-76),  Craig Sword (2013-14-15-16) and Dave Williams (1966-67-68). Carter pumped home 35 points against North Dakota State on 11/30/2017.

Iverson Molinar stuffed the box score with 20 points, handed out a career-best seven assists and added two steals. He was 10-of-23 from the floor. Mississippi State had won the previous seven games in Molinar’s career when he provided double figures.

The 20-point performance gave Molinar a pair of 20-plus point game in his first three outings. The Molinar-Stewart Jr. duo became the 10th combo to amass at least 20 points during a game as a freshmen or sophomore since the 1986-87 season. Five of the 10 occasions have come during the Ben Howland era. Stewart Jr. and Tolu Smith each notched 20 points apiece versus Liberty on 11/26 earlier this season.

Tolu Smith tacked on 13 points and seven rebounds to give the Bulldogs three players in double figures. Smith and Stewart Jr. extended their runs to six straight games in double figures to start the season.

Quinten Post nailed a pair of three-pointers en route to six points, a rebound and a steal to lead Mississippi State’s bench.

Cameron Matthews came away with five points, two rebounds and two steals before fouling out. Abdul Ado, Javian Davis and Deivon Smith rounded out the scoring with two points each.

Ado and Davis hauled down seven rebounds apiece as Mississippi State won a tightly-contested battle of the boards, 33-32. Smith dished out three assists. The Bulldogs frontcourt of Ado, Matthews and Tolu Smith fouled out at different points of overtime.

Mississippi State compiled a 34-of-75 shooting clip (45.3 percent), was 5-of-17 on three-pointers (29.4 percent) and hit on 9-of-22 at the free throw line (40.9 percent). The Bulldogs distributed 13 assists and held a 46-34 advantage in paint points.

Dayton sank 29-of-55 from the field (52.7 percent), 8-of-22 from beyond the three-point line (36.4 percent) and 19-of-26 at the charity stripe (73.1 percent). Four Flyers registered double figures headed by Jalen Crutcher’s 23 points and four assists followed by Ibi Watson’s 21 points and five assists. Rodney Chatman and Chase Johnson also dialed up 15 points apiece for Dayton.

FROM THE BENCH – COACH HOWLAND

“We lost to a very good team. It’s really gut wrenching to lose shooting 9-for-22 from the foul line. We’ve been doing a good job from the foul line since the first game where we were horrible. Again today, it came back and bit us. We shoot a lot of foul shots every day in practice. There were three of them that were front ends of a one-on-one. Anytime, you miss a front end of a one-on-one, that’s two points that you’re missing out on. We had six points lost in that situation. There was a chance where I had to talk to our guys about staying mentally tough and not dwelling on the miss. [As a coach], I just try to evaluate, ‘Why did I miss?’ and try to improve your shot. That’s what we need to do moving forward.”

“D.J. was phenomenal tonight. The three he hit from the corner was a huge one to tighten the game back up late in the first overtime. He just did so many good things for us offensively like creating off the bounce and scoring at the rim. I like to see him get to the foul line a little bit more, but he’s doing a tremendous job … I know that I can get scoring out of those three guys again [in Stewart Jr., Iverson Molinar and Tolu Smith]. They’ll have double figures by the end of the game. We’ve got a fourth player that’s got to give us an ability to score.”

“There were a lot of mistakes, not trailing shooters like [Ibi] Watson. I give them credit. I’m not kidding you. Tonight, [Jalen] Crutcher made three three’s tonight and all three were from 24-to-27 feet out. They were big time NBA three’s. That guy is a really good player. He’s an absolute stud. You can see why that team was 29-2 last year. They know how to win close games, so I give them a lot of credit. Dayton is very well-coached and is a really good team.”

 

FROM THE LOCKER ROOM – D.J. STEWART JR.

“I really am [comfortable playing the leadership role]. I’ve put in a lot of work all the time. I’ve put in a lot, and it’s just paying off. I just thank God that He’s put me in this position, and I’m able to prosper. Just [need to continue to] become a better overall player and continue to do anything to help my team win.”

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Facing a 59-53 deficit with 3:11 in regulation, the Bulldogs found their way to the comeback trail behind a driving layup from Iverson Molinar and a Tolu Smith layup from D.J. Stewart Jr. to pull within a bucket, 59-57, with 2:24 remaining.

The Flyers stretched their edge back to five points at 62-57 after three Ibi Watson free throws. After a Molinar jumper, he connected with Stewart Jr. for a game-tying trey off an inbounds play to knot the score at 62-62 with 65 seconds to go.

Two more Watson foul shots gave Dayton a 64-62 advantage with 5.5 seconds left. Enter in Molinar for the late game heroics. He went coast-to-coast and was freed by an Abdul Ado screen at midcourt. The Panama native utilized the euro step in the lane and finished the equalizing layup through contact to send the game to overtime.

Stewart Jr. scorched the net for a top of the key three-ball to open the extra session scoring. An Ado reverse layup off a nice feed from Stewart Jr. vaulted the Bulldogs up 72-69 inside the final minute of the first overtime.

On the ensuing possession, the Flyers countered with a R.J. Blakney three-pointer to draw even at 72-72 with 16 seconds on the clock. It was Blakney’s lone basket of the game.

Molinar nearly delivered another buzzer beater but missed a 13-footer at the horn to send the contest into double overtime.

Once again, Mississippi State struck early in the period behind back-to-back Tolu Smith paint baskets. A Stewart Jr. jumper gave the Bulldogs a 78-75 lead with 3:08 on the clock.

Watson came up clutch for Dayton with a three-pointer to tie the score at 78-78. Out of a timeout with 32 seconds left, he knocked down a late shot clock jumper to make it a three-point game.

Following a Stewart Jr. misfire on a triple to tie the game, Jalen Crutcher added a pair of timely free throws to cap an 8-0 run to bring the score to 83-78 with 15.8 seconds.

Crutcher would split his next four free throws between two Molinar buckets down the stretch. With 2.8 seconds, Molinar nearly sent the game into a third overtime as his trey from the right wing ricocheted off the back iron for the 85-82 final.

The two teams played within a single possession of each other during the opening 12:57 of the contest.

Down 16-14 at the 12:06 mark, the Bulldogs ripped off 13 of the next 16 points over the next 7:31 off the clock. Mississippi State turned up its defensive intensity and forced Dayton to misfire on 10 of its 11 shots attempts during that span.

Stewart Jr. ignited the flurry with a midrange jumper and a traditional three-point play on a transition layup courtesy of a Javian Davis steal. Following a Tolu Smith jump hook, Stewart Jr. sank a runner on the left elbow. Deivon Smith added a pair of free throws, and Javian Davis made it 27-19 on a layup off an offensive rebound with 4:35 to go.

Quinten Post sent the Bulldogs to the locker room with a 33-25 advantage after he canned two triples inside the last 1:56 of the stanza.

The Flyers surged ahead on the strength of a 13-2 run to begin the second half. Four different players scored, and a Chase Johnson layup placed the Flyers up 38-35 with 14:42 remaining.

Mississippi State fired back with nine consecutive points as Stewart Jr. took over. He hit a runner off glass, a baseline three-pointer and buried back-to-back midrange jumpers to vault the Bulldogs ahead 44-38 with 10:53 left.

Dayton answered with eight straight points of its own to retake a 46-44 edge at the 8:01 mark. The two teams traded blows before the Flyers crept out to a 59-53 lead on a Watson triple with 3:11 left.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State concludes the December portion of its non-conference schedule with a pair of home games versus Central Arkansas (12/16) and Mississippi Valley State (12/21). Tip times for both contests is slated for 7 p.m. CT from Humphrey Coliseum. The UCA game will be carried online only by SEC Network+ via the Watch ESPN app, while the Valley game will be televised by SEC Network.

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.