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Career day by Iverson Molinar leads Mississippi State past Louisiana Tech in NIT semifinals

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Iverson Molinar scored a career-high 25 points and DJ Stewart Jr. added 23 points to lead Mississippi State to an 84-62 win over Louisiana Tech in the semifinals of the NIT on Saturday in Frisco, Texas.

Molinar shot 7-for-13 from the floor, including 5-for-7 on 3-pointers in a game Mississippi State never trailed. Stewart, red hot early, shot 8-for-16 from the floor, including 4-for-6 on 3-pointers.

It was the third time this season that Stewart and Molinar each scored at least 20 in the same game.

Fourth-seeded Mississippi State (18-14), which has never won an NIT title, will play top-seeded Memphis on Sunday for the championship.

Louisiana Tech (23-8) will play Colorado State on Sunday in the NIT third-place game.

Aside from Stewart and Molinar, Mississippi State got exceptional defense from 6-foot-11 center Abdul Ado, who hounded Louisiana Tech star Kenneth Lofton for most of the game. Ado finished with eight points, seven rebounds and a game-high-tying three blocks.

Lofton, a 6-foot-7, 275-pounder, had just six points in the first half as he struggled with Ado’s height. But Lofton finished with a double-double, recording 20 points and 10 rebounds as well as three blocks.

Mississippi State played without standout center Tolu Smith, who missed his second straight game, reportedly due to COVID-19 protocols.

Mississippi State got off to a 17-5 start, and Stewart was 5-for-5 with 14 points during that span, including four shots from long range.

By halftime, Mississippi State had built a 41-29 lead, and Stewart had 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 4-of-5 from deep.

As a team, Mississippi State shot 61.5 percent in the first half, including 6-for-9 on 3-pointers (66.7 percent).

Louisiana Tech shot 35.5 percent in the first half, including 4-for-14 from long range (28.6 percent).

Stewart cooled off in the second half, but Molinar came on strong as Mississippi State was never seriously threatened.

For the game, Mississippi State was plus-13 on the boards while shooting 55.8 percent from the floor, including 10-for-20 on 3-pointers.

Louisiana Tech shot 37.7 percent, including 7-for-26 on 3-pointers (26.9 percent).

–Field Level Media

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