STARKVILLE, Miss. - Facing a 13-point halftime deficit, the Mississippi State men’s basketball team turned to its top three leading scorers of D.J. Stewart Jr., Iverson Molinar and Tolu Smith, who answered the bell with 28 second-half points, but No. 6 Alabama was able to hold onto a 64-59 decision on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (13-12, 7-9 SEC) had their three-game home winning streak over Alabama (19-6, 14-2 SEC) come to a close. The victory also enabled the Crimson Tide to clinch the SEC regular season title, and the No. 1 seed in next month’s SEC Tournament in Nashville.
Stewart Jr. tallied all 15 of his points during the second 20 minutes to reach double figures for the 21st time in 25 games. The Grace, Mississippi, product also dished out four assists.
Tolu Smith collected his SEC-leading seventh double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds. He was an efficient 6-of-9 from the floor.
Molinar notched 11 points and six rebounds to collect 10-plus points during 19 of his 22 outings on the season. The Bulldogs dropped to 10-1 when Molinar, Tolu Smith and Stewart Jr. each score in double figures in 2020-21.
Abdul Ado and Jalen Johnson registered solid efforts during their Senior Night. Ado secured nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks, whereas Johnson chipped in seven points and three rebounds.
Ado made his 122nd career start to tie the program’s all-time leader Dee Bost (2009-10-11-12). The Nigeria native has amassed 67 career games with multiple rejections with his four blocks in the contest.
The Bulldogs received a combined five points from freshmen Derek Fountain and Deivon Smith off the bench. Fountain chipped in three points and two rebounds, while Smith garnered two points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals.
For the contest, MSU turned in a 24-of-59 shooting effort (40.7 percent), a 1-of-12 clip on its three-point attempts (8.3 percent) and was 10-of-17 at the foul line (58.8 percent).
The Bulldogs dialed up 10 assists and committed 16 turnovers, while the Crimson Tide had nine assists and 14 turnovers.
Alabama earned a 45-40 edge over State on the glass. It marked only the sixth time that the Bulldogs were outrebounded this season. MSU maintained a 36-26 ledger in paint points on the strength of a 24-14 edge during the second half.
The Crimson Tide countered with a 21-of-65 mark from the field (32.3 percent), were 7-for-28 on the three’s (25.0 percent) and 15-of-17 on free throws (88.2 percent).
Alabama had two players in double figures, and received 19 points from Jahvon Quinerly off the bench. Jaden Shackelford added 15 points and six rebounds, while Herbert Jones impacted the contest with 14 rebounds.
The Crimson Tide scored 36 of the game’s 41 bench points. James Rojas tacked on nine points and six rebounds highlighted by a critical triple inside the final minute that stretched Bama’s lead from three points to six points.