STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Tolu Smith scored 18 points and had a career-high five steals, Shakeel Moore added 15 points, five assists and four steals and Mississippi State pulled away in the second half Wednesday to beat short-handed Arkansas 81-68 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Smith shot 5 of 8 from the field and 8 of 10 from the free-throw line and Moore hit 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Iverson Molinar scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and finished with five assists for Mississippi State (10-3).
Senior JD Notae, who is averaging a team-high 18.0 points per game this season, and freshman Chance Moore did not play for the Razorbacks (10-3) due to illness. Notae, who was named the SEC’s sixth man of the year last season, has scored in double figures in each game and his 2.7 steals lead the conference.
Kamani Johnson, a junior forward who transferred to Arkansas from Arkansas-Little Rock, has been suspended from the program indefinitely.
Smith, who hadn’t played since an 81-76 loss to Minnesota on Dec. 5 due to a broken pinky toe on his right foot, threw down a dunk with 11 seconds left in the first half to make it 33-31 and Mississippi State led the rest of the way.
Molinar made a jumper to push the lead into double figures for good and then hit two free throws that capped a 13-4 run and made it 59-47 with 11:26 left.
Stanley Umude, a graduate transfer from South Dakota, tied his season high with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting for Arkansas. Davonte Davis also made 7 of 12 from the field and finished with 15 points, five assists and two steals.
Mississippi State tied its season-high with 12 steals and scored 25 points off 17 Arkansas turnovers.
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