Mississippi State cruises past Missouri

Published 10:52 pm Saturday, February 4, 2023

STARKVILLE (AP) — At long last, Mississippi State is finally finding its feet in the Southeastern Conference.

Tolu Smith scored 25 points and collected 12 rebounds as Mississippi State won its third straight game, beating Missouri 63-52 on Saturday.

It was Smith’s 10th-career double-double. The only active player in the SEC with more is Oscar Tshiebewe of Kentucky with 25. Smith finished 8-for-12 shooting and was 9-of-12 at the foul line.

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D.J. Jeffries, Cameron Matthews and reserve Tyler Stevenson all scored 10 points apiece for the Bulldogs (15-8, 3-7 SEC), who never trailed.

“In our game prep, (head coach Chris Jans) was talking about how (Missouri) is really good when they are feeling good, so our main objective was to get to the ball and make them as uncomfortable as we could,” Matthews said.

Backup Deandre Gholston scored 12 points for Missouri (17-6, 5-5) which scored a season low and saw its three-game win streak come to an end. Dmoi Hodge scored 11 and Kobe Brown 10.

The Tigers shot 16-of-50 including 6-for-23 from 3-point range. Missouri entered shooting 43 percent at home but just 20 percent on the road.

“(Missouri) plays a style that you don’t see very often… But I thought our guys had great intensity and focus from the get-go. They were really good in preparation for this game,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “It’s not about what the coach knows. You can watch film until the cows come home. It’s about what (the players) know when the ball is tipped. (Assistant coach George) Brooks and the rest of the guys did a good job of making sure they knew what we were trying to do.”

Missouri used a 10-0 run established by a pair Brown layups wrapped around a pair of 3s by Nick Honor to reduce its deficit to 45-41 with 10:38 left. But Mississippi State countered and went on to outscore the Tigers 15-2 over the next seven minutes to seal it.

Mississippi State has won seven straight against Missouri since 2018-19, and 12 of the last 13 meetings in the series dating to 2014-15.

More importantly, the Bulldogs have finally started to pull out of a tailspin that lasted the entire month of January. They started the season 11-0, then lost eight of the next nine. Now they will carry a three-game winning streak into Wednesday’s home game against a struggling LSU team.

“They kept working,” Jans said. “They didn’t start pointing fingers. They didn’t listen to any noise when things weren’t going as well. I think it’s a testament to who these guys are, how they feel about one another and hopefully a little bit of belief in what we’re trying to do, not only with this team, but in our program for the long term.”