MSU Men’s Hoops Nipped by Texas A&M, 56-55
STARKVILLE – Texas A&M used a 12-2 run over a 3:22 stretch late in the second half en route to hand the Mississippi State men’s basketball team to a 56-55 setback on Wednesday at Humphrey Coliseum.
Iverson Molinar paced the Bulldogs (8-5, 3-2 SEC) with 16 points to extend his streak to 10 straight games in double figures. He relied on a 6-of-11 shooting effort and dished out four assists.
D.J. Stewart Jr. secured nine points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks. The redshirt sophomore had his run of 12 consecutive games with 10-plus points come to a close.
Tolu Smith chipped in eight points, six rebounds and a block followed by Jalen Johnson’s six points and a steal. Abdul Ado added four points, five rebounds and a block. The five boards enabled him to surpass Charles Hull (1958-59-60) for 18th on the program’s rebounds list.
Cameron Matthews and Quinten Post provided a spark off the bench. The pair tallied five points apiece, all during the first half. Deivon Smith rounded out the scoring with two points, two rebounds and two steals.
For the contest, State hit 22-of-51 shots from the field (43.1 percent), 5-of-14 shots from three-point range (35.7 percent) and 6-of-10 shots from the foul line (60.0 percent). The Bulldogs compiled a 32-27 rebounding advantage and have outrebounded their opponents in 12 of 13 games this season.
Mississippi State had 11 assists against 15 turnovers, while the Aggies (7-4, 2-3 SEC) countered with eight assists and 11 turnovers.
Texas A&M shot 23-of-53 overall (43.4 percent), 3-of-10 on three’s (30.0 percent) and 7-of-9 at the charity stripe (77.8 percent). The Aggies had three players in double figures as Jay Jay Chandler notched 12 points off the bench. Andre Gordon and Savian Flagg managed 11 and 10 points, respectively.
FROM THE BENCH – COACH BEN HOWLAND
“I thought there were a couple key factors to the game. One was that they were playing a lot of players. I have to use our bench better because I thought that they [Texas A&M] really wore us down. Another key factor, and it’s all on me, was our attack of their press. I thought their press got better in the second half. We had a little fatigue, but I thought what we were doing was too tentative. We have a different press offense that I’ve almost always used my whole career that we needed to use where it [the offense] is much more aggressive trying to score. We never hurt them in our press offense, but we stayed in it.”
“Give Texas A&M credit, they really fought and scratched. I thought Jay Jay Chandler was a key guy for them down the stretch, and he made some big shots. They are a very well-coached, hard playing team. They hung in there with us and took advantage down the stretch. We have to bounce back from this.”
“To me, in a game like this, where one team takes 53 shots and the other takes 51, turnovers are the biggest factor. We had 15, they had 11. That’s four extra possessions. We had three extra possessions on the offensive end on the offensive glass. They [Texas A&M] were 7-of-9 [from the free throw line], and we were 6-for-10. It was that kind of game. It was very close. We have to bounce back now after a bitter defeat tonight and get ready to play a very good Florida team on Saturday.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Down 10-8 at the 14:08 mark of the opening half, Mississippi State put together a 17-3 run over the next 7:27 off the clock. Iverson Molnar started the charge with a late shot clock floater on the left baseline.
Next, it was the Bulldogs bench who provided a spark. Quinten Post came away with a tipin and a trey at the top of the key. Then, it was Cameron Matthews with a layup and a left wing triple courtesy of D.J. Stewart Jr. to make it 20-12 with 10:40 to go.
After a Tolu Smith offensive rebound putback, Stewart Jr. connected with Molinar to bookend the flurry with a three-ball to bring the MSU advantage to 25-13 with 6:41 remaining.
The Bulldogs took a 33-23 edge into the locker room and grabbed their largest lead at 40-27 when Tolu Smith found Abdul Ado for a two-hand dunk at 17:28 mark.
Texas A&M fired back with 13 straight points to knot the score at 40-40 with 11:54 left. Jay Jay Chandler scored five key points for the Aggies during the game-tying run.
Mississippi State regrouped as Molinar and Stewart Jr. connected on a pair of free throws each, and Tolu Smith got another offensive rebound and tipin to give the Bulldogs a 50-44 lead with 5:14 left.
The Aggies put together a strong finishing kick with 12 of the next 14 points. Andre Gordon was on the receiving end on an alley-opp dunk and drained a three-pointer to put Texas A&M in-front 56-52 with 1:52 to go.
Jalen Johnson provided Mississippi State’s last three points on a layup and split a pair of foul shots inside the last 1:15 for the final margin of 56-55. The Bulldogs had the game’s final possession but were unable to get a shot attempt off as Texas A&M deflected Deivon Smith’s pass attempt to Tolu Smith.
Mississippi State’s next test on its three-game homestand comes from Florida on Saturday. Tip time is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT from Humphrey Coliseum, televised by ESPN2 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.
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