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STARKVILLE, Miss. – Welcome back Arnett.


After missing a pair of games due to injury, Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie returned to the lineup Sunday afternoon. Moultrie scored a team-high 20 points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds as the Bulldogs rolled past North Texas 82-59 in a men’s basketball game played at the Humphrey Coliseum.


No. 24 MSU completed its first week in the national rankings with a 3-0 ledger. The Maroon and White cagers closed out a great Thanksgiving weekend on campus, which included a victory over Tennessee-Martin, a women’s basketball victory over Mississippi Valley State and a football victory over arch-rival Ole Miss.


The Bulldogs (7-1) have now six straight games are off to their best start since the 2003-04 season. Sun Belt Conference member North Texas fell to 1-3.


“We were back to our lineup where we played two bigs and you could tell there was some rust,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “I thought we played hard. We had to play through some things early. In the second half, we were locked down more on the defensive end.”


The Bulldogs had both Moultrie and Renardo Sidney back in the starting lineup Sunday. Sidney had been out with a hand injury while Moultrie has been working through tendonitis. Sidney scored nine points and had three rebounds in 20 minutes. Moultrie did his work on a 5-of-9 day from the field and 10-of-10 effort from the free throw line in 30 minutes of work.


“Both players worked through some fatigue,” Stansbury said. “We need major minutes from them, so we let them play through the fatigue today. If one wanted to come out, they would look over at us and we would look the other way.”
The Bulldogs blistered the nets for 63.3 percent shooting in the game’s opening half and were never threatened. MSU scored a season-best 51 first-half points and led 51-30 at the break.


“It was important to come out and have a fast start,” Moultrie said. “We did a great job of moving the ball and getting several players involved there in the first half. We knew we had to pick up the defensive intensity but on the offensive end we started the game with a lot of confidence.”


A baseline jumper by Moultrie gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 8-7. An eventual 20-2 run staked the hosts to a 24-9 advantage slightly more than eight minutes into the contest. A 3-point basket by Jalen Steele and three straight baskets by Wendell Lewis capped the monster run.


Lewis took up the first-half slack for Sidney, who was in foul trouble. Lewis had all eight of his points and all four rebounds in the opening half.


“Wendell and Jalen both did a very good job of adding to,” Stansbury said. “We need minutes from each of them. Wendell did a good job on the defensive end and created some shots. It was also good to see Jalen make some shots. He has worked very hard and it was good to see him have this kind of afternoon.”


Steele had a season-high 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, including three makes from 3-point land. Joining Steele and Moultrie in double figures were Dee Bost (18 points) and Rodney Hood (11 points). Bost had five assists and three steals, while DeVille Smith had his third four-assist game.


“When you are able to make shots, it builds the confidence,” Steele said. “Right now, we have several players who think they can step up there and score.”


The Maroon and White stretched the lead to 34-12 on a 10-2 run. 3-point baskets by Trey Norris and Brandan Walton allowed the Mean Green to hang in the contest.


The Bulldogs eventually hit 19-of-30 shots from the field in the opening half, including 6-of-12 shots from 3-point range. While the Bulldogs did cool to 36.4 percent shooting the game’s final half, the Bulldogs were not threatened.
A 3-point basket by Hood, dunk by Sidney and putback by Hood capped an 11-0 run midway through the second half. The Hood putback ran the lead to 71-38 with 11:44 left in regulation.


While the scoring and effort were balanced, one could tell the spark provided by Moultrie. After sitting out last season because of a transfer from Texas-El Paso, the 6-foot-11 forward is now finding a home in the Maroon and White.
“Arnett works hard every day in practice,” Stansbury said. “He stays every day after practice and works on shooting drills with (assistant) coach (Phil) Cunningham. No matter how hard the practice is, he makes sure he gets another hour in working on his shot.


“That is why he was 10-of-10 at the free throw line. He has hit two out of his 3-point shots this year. He could not have done those things during the summer. That is how far he has come. We are proud of his effort and we know he is going to continue to work hard.”


For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 27 of 52 shots from the field (51.9 percent), 9 of 19 shots from 3-point range (47.4 percent) and 19 of 27 shots from the foul line (70.4 percent). The Mean Green hit 20 of 62 shots from the field (32.3 percent), 5 of 20 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 14 of 16 shots from the foul line (87.5 percent).
MSU held a 40-34 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 13 assists and 17 turnovers, while the Mean Green had eight assists and 17 turnovers.


The Bulldogs host West Virginia at 8 p.m. Saturday in this year’s installment of the SEC/Big East Challenge. ESPNU will have the national telecast from the Humphrey Coliseum.



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