Mississippi State's basketball program started year two under Head Coach Rick Ray on Sunday afternoon in an exhibition ball game against Auburn-Montgomery. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 20-8 lead in the first nine minutes and never looked back on their way to an 86-57 win at Humphrey Coliseum.
"Obviously it was good for our guys to get out and play against some different competition. They've been beating up on each other in practice for quite some time, especially with the new rules. I'm really pleased with the way that Colin Borchert played. He took some good shots and played within the offense. I'm happy with the way that Andre Applewhite came off the bench and played with some energy and the flow of the game."
MSU simply outmatched AUM with a smaller lineup being out-rebounded by the Bulldogs 42-31. The Bulldogs saw the debut of true freshman point guard I.J. Ready as he managed to offense for 23 minutes in the game giving shooting guard Craig Sword the opportunity to run his natural shooting guard spot.
The Bulldogs started off the ball game sputtering at times on offense but made up for that with strong defensive plays forcing AUM to just 9-26 shooting from the field and 10 turnovers. Senior forward Colin Borchert found his shooting touch knocking down both triples that he shot on his way to 12 points. Craig Sword got to the rim early and often running mostly out of the two-guard set this season and that resulted in a nice first half with 10 points of his own.
"I think the one thing that got in Chicken's head last year is that he's not a point guard," Ray said of Sword running mostly out of the shooting guard spot. "Really there's not much difference in what a point guard and a two guard if there's a missed shot. There's a huge difference if there's a made shot because I don't want him to get the ball and attack in transition. We want Chicken to have the ball because I think he's our most explosive guy in the open court."
MSU went to the locker room in complete control. The Bulldogs had executed defensively and did enough offensively to maintain a 44-22 lead at the break. State hit 53.6% of their field goals and was leading the rebounding category by seven while holding a 7-5 assist-to-turnover ratio which is a main positive from Ray.
The second half saw much of the same from MSU with different lineups used to get guys playing time. Redshirt freshman Andre Applewhite made an impression in the first half with seven points and put five more on the board in the second. After missing all of last year with a torn ACL, Applewhite shined in his first action hitting two of his three threes and adding four rebounds, three assist, two blocks and a steal.
"The biggest thing for him was to go out there and not worry about his knee; just go out there and be Dre," Borchert said of Applewhite. "We see it every day in practice but when it comes to the game it's going to be different. He's so physically strong that he can go bang down there with the big boys. He's strong as an ox."
MSU coasted to a victory behind the 23 points from Borchert, 12 from Sword and Applewhite and a double-double from sophomore center Gavin Ware who knocked down 10 points while pulling down 12 rebounds.
MSU now turns to its season-opening ball game against Prairie View on Friday night. The Bulldogs will tip off from the Hump at 7 p.m. as part of a three-game home stand taking on Kennesaw State Thursday, November 14 and Mississippi Valley State Tuesday, November 19.