MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tolu Smith scored 20 points to lead a balanced offense that complemented No. 23 Mississippi State’s smothering defense in a 69-51 victory over Minnesota Sunday night to say undefeated.
Mississippi State (9-0) is one of seven Division I programs still unbeaten. It’s the Bulldogs’ best start to a season since they won their first 13 games in 2003-04.
Mississippi State — allowing 49.7 points per game, second fewest in the country — held the Gophers (4-6) to 28.8% shooting and a season-low in points. Minnesota had 15 turned overs.
The Bulldogs had four double-digit scorers. Shakeel Moore scored 17 points, Cameron Matthews added 11 and D.J. Jeffries scored 10.
Sophomore Dawson Garcia led Minnesota with 20 points. Joshua Ola-Joseph added 9 points.
The game was close for much of the first half as neither team could sustain any consistent offense, but 16 unanswered Mississippi State points between the closing moments of the first half and the start of the second flipped a two-point Gophers lead into a 14-point lead for the Bulldogs. That was enough of a cushion for Mississippi State’s defense to work with as the lead never dipped below nine.
The Gophers have lost five straight.
The Bulldogs’ defense has yet to surrender more than 55 points in a game this season. The unrelenting unit has allowed an opponent shooting percentage of 33.9% this season, the program’s lowest nine-game totals in the modern era since the 1955-56 season.
Mississippi State held Minnesota to 24 points in the first half, the eighth time it has kept a team under 25 points in a half this season.
Mississippi State: The win is the Bulldogs’ first road victory of the season against a Power Five opponent. Mississippi State’s top-tier defense traveled well, which signals good things to come as SEC Conference play draws closer.
Minnesota: The Gophers’ defense bounced back after allowing 89.5 points in their previous two games. Still Minnesota’s young squad — which features four true freshmen in the rotation — couldn’t halt its five-game skid.
Mississippi State: At Jackson State on Wednesday.
Minnesota: Hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday.
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