STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Mississippi State men’s basketball team opened Southeastern Conference play with an 81-68 win over Arkansas on Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 10-3 (1-0 SEC), while the Razorbacks fall to 10-3 (0-1 SEC).
Redshirt junior forward Tolu Smith led MSU with 18 points and had six rebounds and a career-high five steals. Junior guard Iverson Molinar added 16 points, sophomore guard Shakeel Moore scored 15 and junior forward D.J. Jefferies finished with 10. Graduate forward Garrison Brooks tallied 10 rebounds.
As a team, the Bulldogs shot 27-for-59 (45.8%). including 5-for-17 (29.4%) from 3-point range. They made 22 of 28 free throws compared to 10 of 14 by the Razorbacks. The Bulldogs tied their season-high of 12 steals and scored 25 points off 17 Arkansas turnovers.
The Razorbacks were without three players, including senior guard JD Notae, who is averaging a team-high 18 points and an SEC-leading 2.7 steals per game this season. Graduate guard Stanley Umude led the team with 19 points, while sophomore guard Davonte Davis and graduate guard Chris Lykes scored 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Arkansas shot 25-for-59 (42.4%), including 8-for-27 (29.6%) on 3s.
The game was tight throughout the first half. The Razorbacks owned a 15-10 lead with 12:12 left in the half before the Bulldogs scored the next seven points to go up 17-15.
The teams went into the halftime break with the Bulldogs leading 33-31.
In the second half Molinar sank a jumper to put the Bulldogs up double digits. He then made two free throws to cap off a 13-4 run to make it a 59-47 game with 11:26 to play.
MSU led by as many as 16 points and held a double-digit lead the rest of the game, going on to win by 13 with a final score of 81-68.
The Bulldogs will return to action next Wednesday when they hit the road to face the Missouri Tigers at 8 p.m. CT on SEC Network.