3 takeaways as Iverson Molinar, DJ Stewart rally Mississippi State past No. 13 Missouri

Tyler Horka
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Ben Howland said his Bulldogs could bounce back. Boy, did they ever. 

Three days after blowing a second-half lead in a loss to Kentucky that would have been the program's first win in 15 tries against the Wildcats, Mississippi State beat No. 13 Missouri 78-63 at Humphrey Coliseum on Tuesday. 

"It doesn't erase it, but it sure feels good after a brutal defeat," Howland said. 

It looked like another bleak night for the Bulldogs (7-4, 2-1 SEC) as they went to the locker room trailing by 12 at halftime. The Bulldogs erupted in the second half, however, and cruised to victory over the Tigers (7-2, 1-2). 

"I thought they showed a lot of moxie and a lot of character to bounce back, especially when we were struggling early," Howland said. 

Here are three takeaways from MSU's win. 

Bulldogs bullied in first half

Mississippi State could not stop Missouri down low in the first half. The Tigers scored 22 points in the paint to the Bulldogs' 12. 

Howland burned through threetimeouts trying to find a solution for MSU's defense. He rotated sophomore Quinten Post in for redshirt sophomore Tolu Smith multiple times. Neither could stop Missouri's post players, specifically senior Jeremiah Tilmon. 

Tilmon had eight points on 4-of-5 shooting before he picked up two fouls with eight minutes left in first half. He finished with 16 points, making 8-of-10. The minutes he was on the bench in the first half kept the game from getting out of hand. 

"He's really tough to guard," Howland said. "He's really tough to guard. ... So that was huge for us." 

Mississippi State figured it out in the second half, however. The Tigers shot 50% from the field in the first half. That dipped to 39.3% in the second. The Bulldogs' offense benefited from the intensity ondefensive. 

Iverson Molinar, DJ Stewart get hot 

Mississippi State guard D.J. Stewart Jr. (3) shoots next to Missouri's Xavier Pinson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Howland asks a lot of sophomore guards Iverson Molinar and D.J. Stewart Jr., but they usually are up to the task. They certainly were Tuesday night. 

Mississippi State fell behind 43-29 early in the second half. That's when MSU's dynamic backcourt duo turned the tide.

Molinar and Stewart scored 22 straight points for the Bulldogs. Stewart had 13 in a row during the surge. By the end of their own run, MSU held a 53-50 lead. 

Both players came in averaging more than 18 points. Stewart finished with 24, and Molinar scored 20. Stewart scored 20 in the second half alone. 

"I knew we needed someone to step up to get the (win)," Stewart said. "I just had to lock in and put the team on my shoulders, and it happened." 

Second-half blowout 

Everything was working for Mississippi State in the second half. 

The Bulldogs blew out the Tigers 51-24 in the final 20 minutes. They shot 67.9% from the field in the second half compared to 34.6% in the first.

They only turned the ball over three times compared to eight in the first half. They increased their points in the paint from 12 in the first half to 24 in the second. 

Howland said the improved offensive numbers were a result of Molinar and Stewart being on the floor at the same time as fellow guard, freshman Deivon Smith. 

"We have so many different options when Iverson and Deivon are on the court," Stewart said. "They can drive and shoot, so it really opens the floor for me and for them when they have the ball because we all can score and make plays for others." 

Contact Tyler Horka at thorka@gannett.com. Follow @tbhorka on Twitter. To read more of Tyler's work, subscribe to the Clarion Ledger today!