December 5, 2013

Craig Sword's Second-Straight 24-point Game Not Enough

Mississippi State couldn't get shots to fall on Thursday night and a late rally against TCU fell short. The Bulldogs got 24 points out of sophomore Craig Sword but it wasn't enough as the Horned Frogs handed MSU their first home loss of the season, 71-61, in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

MSU started the game as sluggish as they have in most of their other games this season as they struggled to hit jumpers early missing their first five threes. As a result, TCU went to a zone to box in Gavin Ware. The defense would clamp down on the Bulldogs as they found it hard to find a spark and trailed by nine early.

As the half dwindled down, Craig Sword began to heat up scoring eight points in only a couple of minutes as the Bulldogs cut into the score at 26-20 with 3:40 left in the half. That would immediately change as Sword came out of the timeout giving up a made jumper and a foul as the Horned Frogs got the quick three point play and Sword hit the bench.

MSU would get no offensive output again for the next three minutes as TCU pulled away a bit and took the 34-22 lead into the break.

The second half started even worse for the Bulldogs. TCU came out of the gate hot with a quick 8-3 spurt in the first four minutes to take the 17-point lead. The Bulldogs continued to miss shots outside of the paint and even at the line.

State trailed by 13 before I.J. Ready hit his second three of the night, Sword penetrated and scored on a layup and Roquez Johnson put back had the Bulldogs within eight points with 3:50 remaining in the game.

After TCU hit two free throws, Ready hit a three pointer to close the gap to seven. The Bulldogs would get two straight stops and score on both of those with a layup by Trivante Bloodman and Johnson and MSU was as close as it had been since early in the game at 59-56 with 2:06 remaining. TCU called the timeout ending a 16-4 run by the Bulldogs in five minutes.

The fight was valiant, but the Bulldogs couldn't keep the drive going as TCU got four-straight points after the timeout to finally put the Bulldogs to rest. The Bulldogs lost their first home game of the year and fell to 5-2 with the 71-61 loss.

"If we come out with the intensity that we did in the last 10 minutes, we can compete with anybody," Ready said of the Bulldogs. "I think that will start with me at point guard pressuring the ball and making them speed up. If we come out and play solid on defense, we can win games."

The Bulldogs shot terribly from the line and three point range on the game but it wasn't for lack of effort as they played until the final whistle. State hit 43% of its shots but was a putrid 3-18 from behind the arc and 50% on the line at 10-20.

"I think what we have here is everybody is wrapped up in our offense and where we are offensively against that zone," Ray said of the game. "Really, they shot 45% from the field and we shot 42%. That's not the problem. Our problem is that we need to be sound on the defensive end."

MSU was led by Sword who played a fantastic ball game with 24 points on 9-12 shooting, pulling down five rebounds and dishing out three assist. Ready came back for the first time in two weeks following a hamstring injury and hit three 3 pointers finishing with nine points. Ware managed just nine points on 4-9 shooting with six rebounds.

"Most of the time I have the ball most of the game because I can create shots for other people," Most of the time I am going to be the spark for the offense. I've got to do that every game because we've got to get everybody in the right spot. Sometimes I'll be in the wrong spot too."

The Bulldogs now get the week off before taking on Southeastern Louisiana at the Bancorp South Center in Tupelo, Miss next Friday at 7 p.m.

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