Mississippi State flies past Georgia with big second half

Published 12:28 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022

STARKVILLE (AP) — Mississippi State went into halftime Wednesday down by a point and looking for answers.

It found them.

Iverson Molinar scored a career-high 28 points and Mississippi State quickly overtook Georgia in the second half, winning 88-72 on Wednesday.

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The Bulldogs shot 60 percent (21-of-35) in the second half and never trailed after taking a 40-38 lead on a 3-pointer by D.J. Jeffries with 18:27 left.

“I feel like we were just steadily breaking them down, breaking them down,” said sophomore forward Cameron Matthews, who had 10 points and four assists. “I feel like in that second half we just kind of broke it open and started making shots.”

Molinar was 11-of-18 shooting with seven assists. He had eight points and an assist during a decisive run down the stretch. Molinar’s layup with 2:44 to go put Mississippi State ahead 80-61.

Molinar also had just one turnover in 33 minutes of action.

“I have been working on my game for the longest,” Molinar said. “Only having one turnover and being able to score like that and actually having three rebounds, I feel good. I was able to make plays for others and make my things easier for my team on the offensive end and being aggressive.”

Javian Davis produced 18 productive minutes off the bench for Mississippi State, with 12 points, a team-high six rebounds and three blocks.

Matthews and Andersson Garica added 10 points each. Garrison Brooks had four of Mississippi State’s 10 blocks.

Mississippi State (11-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) shot 53 percent for the game despite the absence of Tolu Smith for the second straight game.

Smith, a 6-foot-11 forward who had eight double-doubles and led the SEC in rebounding last season, has played in only five games this season because of injuries.

“That should tell you how talented this team is,” Molinar said. “We’re missing a big piece down there and are still getting contributions. We still look comfortable out there playing for each other. And once we add that piece back, we’re even going to be scarier.”

Kario Oquendo scored a career-high 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting, Noah Baumann added 15 points and Jabri Abdur-Rahim 13 for Georgia (5-11, 0-3), which lost its fifth straight.

Neither team led by more than six points in the first half when there were nine lead changes and four ties. Baumann’s layup with nine seconds left gave Georgia a 36-35 lead at the break. Mississippi State then built a 10-point lead over the first seven minutes of the second half.

Abdur-Rahim scored seven consecutive points midway through the half to cut lead to three, but Mississippi State responded with a 17-5 run capped by Shakeel Moore’s 3-pointer to go up 15. A few minutes later, Molinar scored six straight points and the lead was 19.