Arnett Moultrie had 19 points, 10 rebounds, three kinds of cookies and an MVP trophy.
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The 6-foot-11 junior forward celebrated his 21st birthday with the big outing as Mississippi State beat No. 15 Arizona 67-57 on Friday night to win the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden.
”My wife had three different flavors of cookies yesterday for me to test taste and decide which ones I thought Arnett would like best,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. ”I liked all three but I said no cookies until the game was over. Momma, you can give him his cookies now.”
The Bulldogs (4-1) closed the game on a 10-2 run to win an in-season tournament for the first time since beating host Arizona 75-74 in the 2000 Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic.
Moultrie was limited to 5 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. He had nine points and four rebounds as the Bulldogs took a 35-34 lead.
”My main focus when that happened was to cheer on my teammates and then come out and have a good second half,” Moultrie said. ”It is an amazing feeling to play like that at the Garden, the biggest stage you can play on.”
Solomon Hill had 12 points and nine rebounds for Arizona (4-1), while Jesse Perry had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
”His size overwhelmed us around the basket,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said of Moultrie.
Josiah Turner made two free throws with 5:13 to play to bring the Wildcats within 57-55.
Moultrie started the big closing run with a basket down low and a tip-in. Arizona, which closed its semifinal win over St. John’s with a 23-6 run, couldn’t get anything going in the final minutes against the Bulldogs, missing six of its last seven shots from the field.
”We survived the first half with Arnett playing 5 minutes,” Stansbury said. ”I thought that when the game got on the line in the second half, we stepped up. We held them to eight field goals in the second half and outrebounded them 23-13 in the second half. Those are winning plays and that’s what you do to win championships.”
Mississippi State, which beat No. 19 Texas A&M in the semifinals, struggled from the outside, making 4 of 16 3-point attempts — including going 1 of 10 in the second half — but the Bulldogs did a great job inside, outscoring the Wildcats 38-24 in the paint. That led to some easy baskets as they finished with a 10-2 advantage on fast-break points.
Perry and Hill combined to go 11 for 22 from the field for the Wildcats, while the rest of the team went 12 of 35. Arizona was 6 of 20 from 3-point range.
”They definitely made it hard to score around the rim,” Perry said.
Stansbury couldn’t say enough about senior guard Dee Bost, who finished with eight points and six assists.
”Stats can be misleading,” Stansbury said. ”Dee gave us a tremendous effort going against those guards and that’s one thing you can control – effort.”
”There can’t be many guards as experienced as Dee Bost,” Miller said. ”He controls the tempo. It’s difficult to deal with them because he does control the tempo and that was the difference in the game.
”As a defensive team you can’t pick and choose when to play hard. You have to play hard on every possession and we learned that tonight.”