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November 14, 2013

Bulldogs Sluggish First Half Turns Strong Second Half into Win, 78-55

Mississippi State built off a sluggish first half by pouring on 53% in the second half on their way to a 78-55 win at Humphrey Coliseum on Thursday night to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Things got off to a rocky start for the Bulldogs as they trailed for most of the first 10 minutes but they got things back on track. MSU trailed 18-14 after the under-eight media timeout but would take the advantage up to 27-21 by the next timeout at 6:11 as the Bulldogs got a rebound out to Colin Borchert who kicked it to I.J. Ready dishing the assist to Rocquez Johnson for two points.

MSU would maintain that lead for the rest of the half and started to push the lead further out. Johnson knocked a ball away and took it down the court in transition for two points followed by a rebound by the Bulldogs and Gavin Ware drawing a foul where he hit one of two free throws to make the score 35-28 with under one minute in the first. KSU would hit a three to cut the lead to four and the Bulldogs' final shot of the half was no good as they led, 35-31.

At the half, the Bulldogs were getting out-rebounded 19-15 and shot just 40% from the field. They did have the defensive pressure turned up as they forced 12 turnovers with seven of those being steals.

The second half started off well enough for MSU has Borchert hit a three to start things off then followed that up with a steal and a dish to Craig Sword for the easy basket pushing Kennesaw to call timeout just 12 seconds in. MSU had its largest lead of the game at that point up 40-31.

"Obviously I thought our guys played well in the second half, I was disappointed in our effort in the first half," Head Coach Rick Ray said. "I think they started off the game from the field goal and I just think that we didn't have the mentality that we were going to come in and grind. We've got to have a mentality of grinding it out."

MSU would push the lead out to its biggest of the night at 9:27 after two buckets from Ware and a driving layup in transition from Trivante Bloodman made it 58-46. MSU would put its third player in double figures with over eight minutes remaining as Sword came off the screen and hit his 11th point of the night from three. MSU led, 61-47.

As the Bulldogs pushed their lead out to 16 points on a transition dunk from Johnson, freshman point guard Ready was on the ground in pain and got up struggling to make it back to the bench when he went back to the locker room with an ankle injury. Ray didn't know the extent of the injury and said that they would look at the injury on Friday.

In his absence, the Bulldogs began to push their lead out and even had the services of redshirt freshman point guard Jacoby Davis who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. On his first offensive possession, Davis penetrated the defense and hit Ware inside for the basket and final points of the game. The Bulldogs won, 78-55 and Rick Ray began the young season 2-0 after winning just 10 games a year ago.

MSU was led by sophomore Fred Thomas who was making his first appearance of the season after being held out by the NCAA. The talented shooter knocked down 4-8 threes and poured in 17 points with three rebounds and three assist. State also had double digits out of Borchert who had 15 points and four rebounds, Sword with 13 points, four assist and three rebounds, Bloodman with 11 points on 7-9 from the free throw line and three rebounds and Johnson with 10 points.

Ware missed his second-straight double-double by just one point as he finished with nine and 10. He shot 4-4 from the field which begged the question from Ray on why he didn't get the ball as much as he did.

"We have to do a better job at getting Gavin Ware touches. I don't care if the defense is in man or zone, he was 4-4 tonight and I think that's 100%. I'm not a math genius but that's pretty good percentage so we've got to give more touches in those situations."

The Bulldogs took care of the ball much better on Thursday with only 12 turnovers while they turned the Owls over 26 times.

MSU now gets set to go 3-0 on the season with a visit from Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. next Tuesday.


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