The Mississippi State men’s basketball team’s pursuit to earn a conference win on the road came to an end on Saturday in a 75-51 blowout at Missouri.
After seven unsuccessful attempts to find a victory in an SEC opponent’s arena, the Bulldogs (16-8, 5-6 SEC) ultimately broke the glass ceiling, obliterating a Tigers squad (8-16, 0-11 SEC) that has yet to sniff the win column since the new year began.
Both squads were shorthanded with Mississippi State’s D.J. Jeffries and Trey Fort as well as Missouri’s Sean East II, the team’s leading scorer, and Trent Pierce not in action, but the absence of the Tigers’ key pieces reflected more on the scoreboard.
In the first half, the game appeared to be shaping up to be a defensive slugfest between two programs trying to accomplish a first of the season.
Missouri opened a slow offensive start by both teams with a 6-5 lead with 16:33 left in the half, but Bulldog freshman sensation Josh Hubbard responded with a triple and a layup to give his team a lead they would not surrender.
A Tolu Smith layup gave the Bulldogs a double-digit lead in the final two minutes of the half, but a pair of threes by Nick Honor put the Tigers within reach, trailing just 30-26 at the intermission.
The momentum garnered by Missouri before the break did not carry over into the final 20 minutes of the game. Instead, the pendulum swung in the direction of the visiting team and never once budged.
Shakeel Moore knocked down a triple to kickstart a 17-3 Mississippi State run that was concluded by Cam Matthews scoring seven unanswered points in one minute to put the Bulldogs up 20. Missouri attempted to cut into the deficit, but their efforts proved futile as the team struggled to score consistently, resulting in a 24-point loss at home.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, had no issue adding to the scoreboard. At times, the buckets seemed to come effortlessly from the Mississippi State team hungry to get the monkey of not winning a true road game off of its back.
The main differences between the two teams were highlighted beyond the arc and in the turnover battle. Mississippi State scored 27 points from the three-point line compared to Missouri’s nine. Known for hard-nosed defense, the Bulldogs forced the Tigers to cough up the ball 20 times in the contest, resulting in 14 points that went the other way.
A trio of Bulldogs shined bright in what was a must-win to keep NCAA Tournament prospects alive. Smith recorded yet another double-double, putting up 13 points and hauling in 11 boards. Moore, not known for his three-point range, was a perfect 4-4 from behind the arc and recorded 14 total points. Hubbard led the team with 16 points. On the defensive side of the ball, Matthews showed out, forcing seven steals.
Mississippi State will return to action next Saturday at home against Arkansas. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. central.