NCAA BK

No. 24 Mississippi State beats North Texas 82-59

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP)

North Texas coach Johnny Jones wasn't particularly concerned with his team's shooting woes.

The Mean Green's lack of defense was much more worrisome.

No. 24 Mississippi State easily beat North Texas 82-59 on Sunday, taking a 20-point lead less than 10 minutes into game and shooting 63.3 percent in the first half.

''Our shots are going to fall eventually, but we've got to get some things cleaned up on defense,'' Jones said. ''You just can't let a team shoot 63 percent in the first half and over 50 percent for the game and expect to win. That's just not good enough.''

Chris Jones led North Texas (1-3) with 12 points and Jordan Williams added 10. The Mean Green shot just 32.3 percent (20 of 62) from the field and 25 percent (5 of 20) from 3-point range.

Arnett Moultrie had 20 points and Dee Bost added 18 for Mississippi State (7-1), which won its sixth straight.

''It's still early, but I think we're one of the best teams in the nation,'' Bost said.

With Moultrie back on the court, Bost's case becomes much stronger.

Frontcourt starters Moultrie and Renardo Sidney returned to the lineup after both missed two games because of injuries. Moultrie continued his hot start to the season, shooting 5 of 9 from the field and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line. Sidney battled foul trouble for much of the game, finishing with nine points and three rebounds.

''I played them until I couldn't play them anymore,'' Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. ''One of them wanted to come out of the game, but we just had to turn our head and leave him in there. He was totally fatigued, but that was good for him.''

The return of Moultrie and the 6-10 Sidney gave the Bulldogs much more size under the basket and they used it to their advantage in the first half, outscoring North Texas 20-2 in the paint by finding open players for point-blank baskets.

Moultrie sat out last season after transferring from Texas-El Paso and has made an immediate impact since becoming eligible this season, averaging 16 points and 10.8 rebounds.

''I'm just glad to be back,'' Moultrie said. ''I wanted to come out and be aggressive offensively and get in a good rhythm for this big game we've got next weekend.''

His high-flying dunks bring the cheers from the crowd, but it's his attention to detail that wows Stansbury. Moultrie is shooting 48.4 percent from the field and nearly 89 percent (32 of 36) from the free-throw line this season, displaying a shooting touch that many big men lack.

Stansbury said that's no accident.

''Every day - I don't care how hard we practiced - he and coach (Phil) Cunningham are out there after practice working on shooting,'' Stansbury said. ''It's paying off for him.''

The Bulldogs bolted to a 30-10 lead in the first 10 minutes and were never challenged, shooting 63.3 percent in the first half and 51.9 percent for the game.

Rodney Hood and Jalen Steele had 11 points apiece for Mississippi State, which went 9 of 19 (47.4 percent) from 3-point range. Bost shot 6 of 8 from the field, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. Hood and Steele hit three 3-pointers each.

North Texas is in the midst of a seven-game road trip and has another tough game on Tuesday against Texas.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

Tagged: North Texas, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Texas, Arnett Moultrie, Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney

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