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Moody's 29 lead Mississippi over Mississippi State 71-65

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STARKVILLE, Mississippi — Mississippi's Stefan Moody raced across the court with his red-streaked dreadlocks trailing behind him. He pushed past screens and dodged defenders, sprinting as fast as he could toward the 3-point line.

Everyone in the gym knew who was about to shoot the basketball. And there was nothing Mississippi State could do to stop it.

Moody scored a season-high 29, including 24 of those on eight 3-pointers, to lead Ole Miss over Mississippi State 71-65 on Thursday night.

"He's a monster athlete," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "He can get separation on anybody. What's gotten better with him is he's accepted his role as our go-to guy."

Ole Miss (18-8, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) won for just the second time in 17 years at Humphrey Coliseum and swept the season series against its in-state rival for the first time since 1998.

Moody had his most impressive stretch during an 82-second run late in the second half. The 5-foot-9 junior hit three straight 3-pointers from essentially the same spot on the floor, giving the Rebels some offense when the Bulldogs were trying to make a run.

"Any time you play your rival team at (their) home they're going to be up for the game and knock down more shots," Moody said. "We just had to battle through it."

Mississippi State (12-14, 5-8) could never recover. Craig Sword led the Bulldogs with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Gavin Ware scored 13 and Travis Daniels added 12.

Mississippi State dominated throughout much of the first half, leading by 10 at one point before settling for a 32-27 halftime advantage.

Daniels led the Bulldogs with 10 points in the opening half, including a vicious one-handed jam over M.J. Rhett that jolted the Humphrey Coliseum crowd to its feet.

Ole Miss recovered quickly, stunning the Bulldogs with a 17-4 run to open the second half to take a 44-36 lead. The outburst was punctuated by a deep 3-pointer from Moody, who hit it from several feet behind the line.

PHOTO: Mississippi State guard Travis Daniels (23) scores a first half dunk past Mississippi forward M.J. Rhett (4) at an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mississippi State guard Travis Daniels (23) scores a first half dunk past Mississippi forward M.J. Rhett (4) at an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

But history shows Mississippi State has a huge advantage in Starkville and the Rebels couldn't pull away, even with Moody dropping 3-pointers from all over the court. Moody shot 8 of 12 from 3-point range and 5 of 6 on free throws.

Mississippi State stayed close until the final minute. Sword said the Bulldogs could have made better choices on their final offensive plays, but didn't attack.

"We could've gotten to the paint any time we wanted to do, but we were settling for jumpers," Sword said.

Ole Miss didn't clinch the win until Moody hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.

Ole Miss shot 50 percent from the field (16 of 32) in the second half to win its fourth straight on the road. It's another big victory for the Rebels, who appear to be closing on a second NCAA tournament bid in three seasons.

"I think our team has passed the eye test — it has," Kennedy said. "Now our numbers have to make sense. That's why this game was so important, to keep our numbers moving forward."

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TIP-INS

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs had a 24-11 rebounding advantage during the first half. ... Mississippi State has already won more SEC games this season than in the first two years of coach Rick Ray's tenure. The Bulldogs won three in the 2012-13 season and four last year.

Ole Miss: The Rebels played Mississippi State for the 252nd time on Thursday. That's the most-played rivalry in the SEC.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State hosts Arkansas on Saturday.

Ole Miss hosts Tennessee on Saturday.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Mississippi State guard Craig Sword (32) dribbles past Mississippi guard Martavious Newby (1) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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