Down 14 points early in the second half, Iverson Molinar and D.J. Stewart Jr. put the Mississippi State men’s basketball team on its back and carried the Bulldogs to a spirited 78-63 comeback victory over Missouri on Tuesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
The sophomore guards amassed 36 of the team’s 51 second-half points on a collective 14-of-20 shooting performance. At one point during the second half, the Molinar-Stewart Jr. combo racked up 24 consecutive points for the Bulldogs.
The 15-point victory was the fifth-largest margin of victory for Mississippi State (7-4, 2-1 SEC) over a ranked opponent and the second-best margin of victory over a top 15 team in program history. It also marked the program’s first triumph over a top 15 foe since the Bulldogs toppled No. 15 Arizona, 67-57, on Nov. 18, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
State has defeated a top 25 opponent during three of the last four seasons under head coach Ben Howland. The last win over a ranked foe was a 92-84 decision against No. 16 Auburn on Jan. 26, 2019.
Mississippi State did the heavy lifting during the second 20 minutes and exploded for 51 second-half points on scorching 19-of-28 shooting effort. The 12-point halftime comeback matched the highest in the Howland era. The Bulldogs also defeated Tennessee after trailing by 12 at the half on Nov. 4, 2017.
Stewart Jr. ripped off 13 straight MSU points on six basketball over a 5:16 span during the second half. The Grace, Mississippi, native extended his run to 11 consecutive games in double figures and eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the fourth occasion in 2020-21 and for the fifth time in his career.
Stewart Jr. knocked down 10-of-14 from the field and hit on eight of his 10 shots during the second half. He dished out four assists coupled with three rebounds and three steals.
Molinar piled up 20 points of his own and handed out two assists. He also posted his fourth 20-plus point outing this season and garnered his fifth career game of 20 or more points.
It marked the second time that Molinar and Stewart Jr. each had over 20 points during the same game. The pair outscored Missouri by themselves, 36-24, and have reached double figures in their first eight appearances together this season. The duo joined Stewart Jr. and Tolu Smith with eight straight games in double figures during their first eight appearances of the season. They are the ninth set of teammates to accomplish the feat dating back to 1958-59.
Tolu Smith was one rebound shy of his SEC-leading fifth-career double-double as he worked his way to 15 points and nine rebounds. He was an efficient 5-of-7 shooting and sank 5-of-6 at the charity stripe.
Abdul Ado and Deivon Smith tallied six points apiece. Ado grabbed seven rebounds and registered three blocks, while Smith compiled four boards, three assists and two steals.
Cameron Matthews and Jalen Johnson rounded out the scoring for the Bulldogs with four and three points, respectively.
For the contest, MSU buried 28-of-54 shots from the field (51.9 percent), 3-of-6 attempts from triple territory (50.0 percent) and 19-of-21 shots from the foul line (90.5 percent). The 90.5 free throw percentage marks third-highest against an SEC opponent under Howland.
State held a 37-22 rebounding advantage and outrebounded its opponent for the 10th time in its first 11 games. Mississippi State turned 10 offensive rebounds into a 17 of the game’s 21 points on second-chance opportunities.
The Bulldogs had 11 assists against 11 turnovers, while the Tigers secured 15 assists and committed only eight turnovers.
Missouri countered with a 26-of-58 shooting effort overall (44.8 percent), 5-of-18 on three-pointers (27.8 percent) and a perfect 6-of-6 at the charity stripe.
The Tigers had three players in double figures. Jeremiah Tilmon managed 16 points and six rebounds. A key point in the contest was when Tilmon picked up his fourth foul with 8:17 left. Xavier Pinson notched 13 points and eight assists for Missouri.