STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State never trailed against North Texas Friday night, but the Bulldogs had to work for a 69-63 win over the Mean Green at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (2-2) were led by redshirt sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. with 16 points on 6-for-18 shooting. Sophomore guard Iverson Molinar added 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting in his season debut.
Redshirt sophomore forward Tolu Smith and redshirt senior forward Jalen Johnson also scored in double digits, finishing with 12 and 10, respectively.
The Bulldogs shot 26-for-54 (48.1%), including a season-low 1-for-10 from 3-point range. Molinar made the team’s only triple. MSU won the points in the paint battle 44-22 and outscored North Texas 13-0 on the fast break. State also shot 16-for-22 from the free-throw line.
The Mean Green (1-2) shot 20-for-56 (35.7%) from the field, 7-for-23 (30.4%) on 3-pointers and 16-for-20 (80%) on free throws.
The Bulldogs opened the game with a 7-0 lead. Molinar scored five of the seven. The Mean Green then scored six unanswered points to make it 7-6 with 13:02 left in the first half.
MSU managed its first double-digit lead with 9:25 left in the half when freshman guard Deivon Smith’s layup made it 18-8.
The teams went into the halftime break with the Bulldogs leading 29-20.
Stewart opened the second half with a jumper to increase the MSU lead to 31-20 before North Texas worked its way back to within five at 33-28 with 18:07 to play.
Molinar then scored four consecutive points to give MSU a 37-28 lead, but the Mean Green made a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to make it a 37-33 ballgame.
The Bulldogs managed another double-digit lead at 48-38 with 11:32 to play. The Mean Green then came back within six points at 50-44, but MSU went back up 10 points at 54-44 shortly thereafter.
North Texas clawed its way back to within six points seven more times in the duration of the second half, but that is as close as the Mean Green would get as MSU went on to win by six points at 69-63.
The Bulldogs will return to action Tuesday when they host Jackson State. Tip time is set for 8 p.m. CT.