STARKVILLE – Having started 0-3 in Southeastern Conference play, Tuesday’s game against Missouri was about as must-win as a game can get in January for Mississippi State.
And the Bulldogs played that way.
MSU jumped out to a 20-point cushion in the first half and cruised for a wire-to-wire 72-45 victory, its seventh in the last eight contests against the Tigers.
“It was obviously a great win for us, I thought we needed it desperately,” said MSU coach Ben Howland. “I thought our defense was actually the best that it’s been all year. We improved upon the last game and really dominated. To get 18 points in the first half off of their turnovers was really key to having a 40-20 advantage at the half. The defense was unbelievable.”
The 20 points that the Bulldogs held Missouri to in the opening half matched the fewest of any SEC opponent during Howland’s five seasons at State. The Tigers were coming off a 51-point first half from their 91-75 win over Florida last Saturday.
The Bulldogs already had a 10-point lead before Missouri even scored at the 15:06 mark of the first half.
Mississippi State shot 54.5 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Tigers, 36-24.
Reggie Perry provided the Bulldogs with his ninth double-double of the season and SEC-leading 18 of his career. Perry produced 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting and also added 10 rebounds.
“He’s a double-double guy every night,” Howland said. “This was really good, our patience helps him. We’re getting the ball to him and he’s obviously a great finisher. He’s a special player.”
Tyson Carter came off the bench on his 22nd birthday and broke out of his shooting slump. Carter had 15 points to pass his father, Starkville High School coach Greg Carter, for No. 31 on MSU’s all-time scoring list with 1,037 points.
Tyson Carter also chipped in seven assists, three steals and only had one turnover.
“It means a lot because I have been struggling,” Carter said. “Just seeing a couple of them fall is definitely a confidence boost.”
Nick Weatherspoon also added 11 points as MSU improved to 1-3 in conference play and 10-6 overall.
Missouri, meanwhile, committed 19 turnovers and its leading scorer Dru Smith was held to only two points on 1 of 5 shooting. The Tigers (9-7, 1-3 SEC) shot 34.7 percent from the field as a team.
Kobe Brown was the lone Missouri player to reach double figures, scoring 14 points.
State continues its three-game homestand on Saturday host Georgia at 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network.