By David Brandt/The Associated Press
JACKSON — DeVille Smith weaved through some defenders midway through the second half and then looked up toward the basket to survey his options. Sure enough, Arnett Moultrie was cruising toward the hoop.
It wasn’t surprising. The big man had been around the basket all game.
Smith lofted a pass toward the 6-foot-11 Moultrie, who jumped and slammed home the alley-oop with two hands. It was another easy bucket for Moultrie and No. 18 Mississippi State as the Bulldogs coasted to an 82-67 victory Thursday night at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Mississippi State (12-1) has won 11 straight games. Moultrie finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Eleven of his 14 rebounds were on the offensive glass.
“I think it had to do with me being 6-foot-11 and very athletic,” Moultrie said. “It’s kind of hard for people to box out. Even when they do, I’ve got the quickness to get around them.”
Moultrie led a productive night for the Bulldogs’ big men. Wendell Lewis scored a career-high 14 points off the bench, while Renardo Sidney added nine points and four rebounds in the first half before sitting out the rest of the game because of a strained patella tendon in his left knee.
Rodney Hood added 11 points and six rebounds.
But Moultrie was the standout. He shot 8 of 11 from the field and 8 of 8 from the free throw line.
The Bulldogs won easily despite an off night from most of the guards. Dee Bost, the team’s leading scorer with 18 points per game, managed just eight on 3-of-14 shooting.
Mississippi State jumped out to a 30-11 lead by midway through the first half, feasting on easy baskets at point-blank range. Sidney had a particularly violent one-handed tomahawk that highlighted the team’s 26 points in the paint during the first half. The Bulldogs took a 41-27 lead into halftime.
The 6-foot-10 Sidney was playing one of his better games this season during the first half, with nine points and four rebounds in 11 minutes. But he didn’t play in the second half because of the knee injury, sitting on the bench with a bag of ice on his left leg.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said he didn’t think Sidney’s injury was serious, but wouldn’t be certain until he was evaluated by the team’s medical staff.
Without Sidney, Mississippi State struggled to open the second half. Northwestern State (7-6) went on a 12-4 run to close the gap to 45-39 just minutes into the second half.
“The team got off to a big lead and just kind of coasted,” Stansbury said. “We had our bags packed for the holidays and that’s where their mind was at that point.”
But the Bulldogs responded with an 11-1 run of their own to put the game out of reach, capped by Lewis’ dunk on a fast break that pushed Mississippi State’s lead to 56-40. Moultrie also had a few baskets during the rally, with several offensive rebounds that extended possessions.
“The one shot you can’t defend in basketball is the offensive rebound and Arnett Moultrie just killed us with those,” Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. “He really took the steam out of that rally we had because he just kept extending their possessions.”
Mississippi State outrebounded Northwestern State 44-34 and scored 52 points in the paint. The Bulldogs also had 24 second-chance points.
Shamir Davis led the Demons with 15 points. Louis Ellis scored 13 and Gary Stewart added 12 off the bench.
Mississippi State gets nearly a week off before facing No. 6 Baylor on Wednesday in Dallas.
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