Mississippi State pulls away from Ole Miss in second half

Mississippi State shines in second half to beat Ole Miss 64-54.
Mississippi State shines in second half to beat Ole Miss 64-54.(WTOK Sports)
Published: Jan. 7, 2023 at 7:56 PM CST
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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Will McNair Jr. scored a season-high 13 points, Tolu Smith added 12 and Mississippi State warmed up in the second half to beat Mississippi 64-54 on Saturday.

After neither team reached 32% in the first half, the Bulldogs (12-3, 1-2 SEC) shot 50% in the second, outscoring the Rebels (8-7, 0-3) 28-8 over an 11-minute stretch to go up by 13. Mississippi State had its largest lead of the game at 59-46 after an Eric Reed Jr. dunk with 1:22 remaining.

Both McNair, averaging under four points per game, and Smith were 5-of-7 shooting in helping to give Chris Jans his first SEC coaching victory. The Bulldogs snapped a three-game losing streak after opening with 11 straight wins.

Reed had nine points and eight rebounds and D.J. Jeffries also had eight rebounds to lead MSU to a 42-34 edge on the boards, including a plus-6 advantage on the offensive glass while outscoring Ole Miss by 10 in the paint.

The Bulldogs, ranked fourth in scoring defense at just under 57 points per game, had 12 steals among 15 Ole Miss turnovers.

The Rebels’ leading scorer, Matthew Murrell, didn’t get his first bucket until a layup at the buzzer in the first half got the Rebels within three. He shot 6 of 9 in the second and finished with 19 points, though he was only 1 of 7 from 3-point range. Jaemyn Brakefield added 10 points and Myles Burns grabbed 10 rebounds. The Rebels lost their fourth straight.

The Bulldogs led for most of the first half and were up 26-23 at the break. Ole Miss shot just 28% in the first half and went 11 1/2 minutes between field goals in one stretch. Nonetheless, when TJ Caldwell snapped the drought with a 3-pointer, the Rebels trailed by only three.

Ole Miss is host to Auburn on Tuesday. Mississippi State is at Georgia on Wednesday.