Stefan Moody scores 43 points on Senior Night at Mississippi
Mississippi guard Stefan Moody (42) drives against Mississippi State forward Gavin Ware (20) during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Oxford, Miss. (Bruce Newman/Oxford Eagle via AP)
OXFORD, Miss. — Stefan Moody did a little crossover stutter-step, dribbled behind his back and then let a 3-pointer fly from more than 25 feet away from the basket. He smiled and started skipping backward even before it splashed through the hoop.
The Ole Miss senior’s fourth 3-pointer of the night gave him 24 points —better than his average of 22.8 — and there were still more than five minutes to go in the first half.
Moody finished with a career-high 43 points in a spectacular performance on Senior Night at The Pavilion to help Ole Miss beat Mississippi State 86-78 on Wednesday.
"What can you say about Moody?" Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "He’s one of the most electrifying players in our history."
The 5-foot-10 guard has scored more than 1,200 career points in less than two full seasons with the Rebels after transferring from a junior college. His final home game was one to remember.
He finished 11 of 24 from the field, including 6 of 12 from 3-point range. He was 15 of 18 on free throws and also had six assists. Several of the long-range shots were from way behind the 3-point line.
"The game just flowed that way and that’s how it happened," Moody said.
Ole Miss (19-11, 9-8 SEC) has won three of its past four games.
Mississippi State (13-16, 6-11) won the season’s first meeting against Ole Miss 83-77 on Jan. 23 in Starkville, but that was when starters Moody, Sebastian Saiz and Martavious Newby were all out with injuries.
All three were back on Wednesday and after Moody’s early barrage it was obvious the Bulldogs were in trouble. Saiz and Anthony Perez both added 10 points for the Rebels.
Mississippi State was led by Gavin Ware’s 28 points. Freshman Quinndary Weatherspoon added 15.
Ole Miss led by as many as 15 points in the first half and had a 44-32 advantage at halftime mostly thanks to Moody’s terrific shooting.
His previous career high was 33 points against LSU in January.
Mississippi State has been an improved program of late, beating possible NCAA Tournament teams like South Carolina, Alabama and Vanderbilt over the past few two weeks. But the Bulldogs never had a consistent answer for Moody, who mixed 3-pointers with drives to the basket.
An exasperated Weatherspoon said the Bulldogs tried just about everything to stop him.
"He’s shooting it from, like, 32 feet," Weatherspoon said. "There’s nothing you can really do about it when he’s shooting it from that far."
Mississippi State’s Ware countered with an impressive night, making 11 of 14 shots from the field. The Bulldogs rallied to cut Ole Miss’ lead to 55-49 with about 15 minutes left, but could get no closer.
"We had no answer for (Moody) right from the beginning," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "And give him credit, because we were really trying hard defensively tonight."
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs played the Rebels for the 254th time in the series. That’s the most between two teams in the SEC. Mississippi State has a 94-25 record in Starkville and a 43-82 record in Oxford. … The Bulldogs struggled to take care of the ball against Ole Miss’ trapping defense. They finished with 18 turnovers.
Ole Miss: The Rebels honored four seniors on Senior Night: Moody, Tomasz Gielo, Newby and Perez. All of them played important roles this season. … If Ole Miss wins one more game, it’ll be the eighth 20-win season in Kennedy’s 10 years with the Rebels.