STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State kept going to Arnett Moultrie for big baskets in the second half, and the crowd roared its approval for each one. The two seemed to feed off each other in the Bulldogs' 75-62 victory over West Virginia on Saturday night.
It's more evidence for coach Rick Stansbury that he has a bona fide star on his hands.
"Some guys can do it at 3 o'clock," Stansbury said. "But they can't do it when the popcorn's popping."
Moultrie had 21 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season as Mississippi State (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) earned its seventh consecutive victory. Dee Bost scored 17 points and Jalen Steele added 10, including a 3-pointer late in the second half that gave the Bulldogs a 67-57 lead.
The Bulldogs (8-1) led throughout the first half, but a free throw by Deniz Kilicli gave the Mountaineers a 35-34 advantage right after halftime. The game remained close until Bost's steal and ensuing slam put Mississippi State ahead 60-54 with 5:31 remaining.
Kevin Jones and Kilicli led West Virginia (4-2) with 14 points each. Jones also had nine rebounds.
Moultrie has been productive all season for the Bulldogs, averaging 16 points and 10.8 rebounds through his first six games. This strong performance delighted a packed Humphrey Coliseum crowd and included several important baskets during the second half when West Virginia tried to make its final push.
He went 7 for 8 from the field -- including sinking his only 3-point attempt -- and 6 for 7 from the free throw line.
The skinny Moultrie was quite the contrast to West Virginia's frontcourt -- especially Jones and Kilicli, who both are listed at 260 pounds. But he never appeared fazed, feeding off the physical play.
"It's my quickness, athleticism and length," Moultrie said. "I thought they were a little stronger than me, but those things helped me out."
Moultrie's big night offset another limited contribution from Renardo Sidney, the oft-troubled but undeniably talented big man. He struggled once again against the Mountaineers, fighting foul trouble and a tenacious defense. He did have a monster dunk early in the second half and a quick pass to Wendell Lewis for a dunk a few minutes later, but never had a huge impact.
He finished with eight points and three rebounds.
Mississippi State opened a 25-15 lead with 8:30 remaining in the first half. West Virginia slowly fought back, and back-to-back baskets by Kilicli got the Mountaineers within two by halftime.
Kilicli also scored West Virginia's first five points after intermission, but neither team could gain much of an advantage throughout a physical second half.
Mississippi State finally broke free late in the game, when Bost stole the ball and sprinted the length of the court for an emphatic one-handed dunk that gave the Bulldogs a six-point lead. Bost was 4 for 14 from the field, but also added five rebounds, five steals and seven assists.
"(The dunk) gave us a nice boost," Bost said. "Then all we had to do was keep defending."
Steele put the game out of reach a few minutes later, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner for the 67-57 advantage.
The Bulldogs were without starting guard Brian Bryant, who Stansbury said is serving a two-game suspension for a violation of undisclosed athletic department rules.
Mississippi State shot 49 percent (26 for 51) from the field, but West Virginia won the rebounding battle 36-31.
The Mountaineers went 2 for 15 from 3-point range. Jones came into the game averaging 21 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins was frustrated with his team's inability to guard Bost and Moultrie and also with a poor shooting touch that led to a 23-of-58 night (39.7 percent) from the field.
"They're really good," Huggins said.
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