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Mississippi State cruises to NIT championship with 84-62 win over Louisiana Tech

Bulldogs improve to 18-14.

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

FRISCO, Texas — The fourth-seeded Mississippi State men’s basketball team is headed to its first National Invitation Tournament championship game after defeating the fourth-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 84-62 Saturday afternoon at Comerica Center.

Mississippi State (18-14, 8-10 SEC) became the first team to score at least 70 points against Louisiana Tech since Jan. 22 and advances to play No. 1 seed Memphis (19-8, 11-4 AAC) on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT. Louisiana Tech (23-8, 12-4 C-USA) plays a consolation game against No. 1 seed Colorado State at 2 p.m. Both games will be at Comerica Center and will air on ESPN.

MSU sophomore guard Iverson Molinar scored 25 points, while redshirt sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. had 23. The two guards combined to make nine of the team’s 10 3-pointers. Freshman forward Derek Fountain added 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

As a team, MSU shot 29-for-52 (55.8%), including 10-for-20 (50.0%) on 3-pointers. Redshirt senior forward Abdul Ado brought down seven rebounds to help MSU own a 38-25 rebounding edge. He also finished with eight points.

Louisiana Tech shot 23-for-61 (37.7%) from the field and 7-for-26 (26.9%) from 3-point range. Freshman forward Kenneth Lofton Jr. had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while redshirt senior guards Kalob Ledoux and JaColby Pemberton added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

MSU opened the game by scoring the first 11 points. Stewart made his first five shots to give MSU a 17-5 lead with 15:50 left in the first half.

The Maroon and White held a comfortable lead for the entire first half on their way to leading by 12 points at 41-29 at the halftime break.

Louisiana Tech sophomore forward Isaiah Crawford made a layup to begin the second half before MSU went on a 13-3 run when Stewart made a layup and Molinar scored 11 points, including three consecutive 3-pointers that made it 54-34 with 13:48 left to play.

MSU held a double-digit lead the rest of the way on its way to an 84-62 win.