Jacksonville Sports Day

SEC: Smith’s Career Day Vaults Mississippi State Past Florida, 72-69

by Josie Hutton, MSU Student Assistant/Communications

STARKVILLE – Tolu Smith piled up career-highs with 27 points, 14 rebounds and tied a career-best three blocks to deliver the Mississippi State men’s basketball team to a 72-69 win over Florida on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.

Smith collected his SEC-leading fifth double-double of the season and the first 20-10 performance of his career. He scorched the nets going 11-of-13 from the floor.

Smith and Abdul Ado combined for 38 points on a collective 16-of-18 shooting effort. The duo also teamed to haul down 23 rebounds to fuel the Bulldogs (9-5, 4-2 SEC) to a 47-26 rebounding edge and a 52-30 rout in paint points.

Ado compiled 11 points on a flawless 5-for-5 shooting and equaled his season’s best with nine rebounds. He also secured three blocks and a steal.

Florida had at trio of players register double figures, headed by Tyree Appleby’s 20 points. He sank 11 of the team’s 14 attempts at the foul line. Colin Castleton came away with 16 points, seven rebounds and six blocks, followed by Tre Mann’s 14 points, six assists and three steals.

Mississippi State’s win gave the program its first 4-2 SEC start since the 2011-12 season and its sixth start of 4-2 or better through six SEC games during the 2000s.

The Bulldogs secured their third consecutive victory over Florida (6-4, 3-3 SEC) and tucked away their second top 50 NCAA NET victory on the season. The last time State amassed a three-game winning streak over the Gators was during the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.

Mississippi State’s backcourt also did their part as Iverson Molinar tallied 13 points, six rebounds and three assists to extend his streak to 11 straight games in double figures to start the season. The Bulldogs have racked up a 13-3 record when Molinar scores 10-plus points in his career.

D.J. Stewart Jr. posted 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. He has notched 10-plus points in 13 of MSU’s 14 games on the season, and the Bulldogs moved to 20-7 when Stewart Jr. reaches 10 or more points.

In total, the quartet amassed 62 of the team’s 72 points. Mississippi State has won seven of its eight games when four players have pumped in double digit points this season.

Deivon Smith was the Bulldogs top performer off the bench with five points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal. Jalen Johnson and Cameron Matthews rounded out scoring as Johnson added three points, two assists and two steals, alongside Matthews’ two points and four rebounds.

For the contest, Mississippi State connected on 29-of-60 from the field (48.3 percent), 1-of-8 on its attempts from three-point territory (12.5 percent) and 13-of-24 from the free-throw line (54.2 percent).

The +21 rebounding margin for the Bulldogs was the highest versus a SEC opponent under sixth-year coach Ben Howland. It marked the sixth time in 2020-21 that State has outrebounded its opponent by over 10 rebounds.

The Gators countered with a 25-of-61 shooting performance from the field (41.0 percent), 5-of-19 from beyond the three-point arc (26.3 percent) and 14-of-16 at the charity stripe (87.5 percent).

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