TROY, Ala. - A valiant comeback by the Mississippi State fell short Friday night as the Bulldogs dropped a 56-53 decision to Troy in the season opener at the brand new Troy Arena.
The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 16 points in the game's opening half. A gritty defensive effort allowed the short-handed squad to hang tough. MSU forced a tie at 53-all and actually had possession but could not get the go-ahead points in the final minute.
Alas, Emil Jones did convert with his jumper just inside the foul line with 1.6 seconds left in regulation lifting the Trojans to victory before a school-record crowd of 5,120. The Trojans then got a defensive stop and hit a free throw in the final second to close out the win.
The victory snapped MSU's nine-game win streak in the series and also ruined the debut of new MSU head coach Rick Ray. The Bulldogs will look to bounce back Tuesday night when Florida Atlantic comes to Humphrey Coliseum for a 7 p.m. tip.
The Bulldogs built a quick 5-0 lead behind a pair of baskets from Colin Borchert. The Trojans answered for an early 7-6 lead on a 3-point basket by Hunter Williams.
The Trojans kept the early offensive hot streak going with back-to-back-to-back 3-point baskets. Troy scored nine straight points and suddenly leaped to a 16-8 advantage with 9:56 left before halftime.
Troy pushed the advantage to 30-14 on another trey by Williams with 4:59 left in the half. Behind some spirited minutes from Gavin Ware, the Maroon and White closed the half on an 8-2 run and only trailed 32-22 at the intermission.
In the second half, the Bulldogs flipped the script on the defensive end. Given a spark by some turnovers, MSU cashed in on the offensive end. Back-to-back treys by Jalen Steele and Fred Thomas brought the Maroon and White within five at 39-34 with 15:12 remaining.
Troy again ran the lead to ten at 44-34 before MSU answered with its best rally. Back-to-back layups by Ware and Borchert brought MSU within two. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Wendell Lewis again had the Bulldogs down 51-49 with 3:55 left.
A possession later, Lewis fouled out with the Bulldogs down four. A dunk by Ware on a nice give-and-go by Trivante Bloodman cut the lead in half. Two free throws by Steele tied the teams for the first time in the second half with 1:08 remaining.
The Bulldogs could not get over the hump however with back-to-back turnovers on their final two possessions.
For the contest, MSU hit 19 of 43 shots from the field (44.2 percent), 4 of 16 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 11 of 18 shots from the foul line (61.1 percent). Troy hit 21 of 58 shots from the field (36.2 percent), 10 of 29 shots from 3-point range (34.5 percent) and 4 of 7 shots from the foul line (57.1 percent).
Troy held a 34-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had six assists and 16 turnovers, while the Trojans had 12 assists and 12 turnovers.
Steele paced the Bulldogs with 16 points, while Bloodman added 11 points and Ware added 10 points. A total of eight Bulldogs played, with Roquez Johnson not dressing due to concussion he suffered Thursday during practice.
Troy received 12 points from Tevin Calhoun and 10 points apiece from Jones and Williams.