ANTWERPEN, Belgium - If there's been a common theme during this 2011 European Tour for Mississippi State, it is second-half dominance keyed by a staunch defensive effort.
That was certainly the case on Thursday night against perennial Division II power St. Jan, as MSU flexed its muscles in the final 20 minutes en route to a convincing 88-63 victory.
The game at the historic Sporthal Linkeroever featured balanced scoring by Mississippi State, with junior forward Wendell Lewis pacing the attack with 15 points, followed by Arnett Moultrie and Deville Smith with 14. Also in double-digits were Rodney Hood with 13 and Brian Bryant with 11.
Moultrie, the junior transfer from UTEP, did have his string of three-straight double-doubles snapped as he finished with seven rebounds.
"The thing I liked the most was the energy we played with," said MSU coach Rick Stansbury, whose team improved to 4-0 with one game remaining. "We were basically coming off two road games (due to travel to each site) on back-to-back nights, and I was concerned with fatigue. But that wasn't an issue. We just played hard and with a lot of energy."
St. Jan used its size early to build a 6-3 lead, MSU's largest deficit of this tour. But a 4-0 run on fastbreak layups by Lewis and Bryant gave MSU the lead for good.
Still, though, the score remained tight and at the end of the opening quarter, the Bulldogs' were up just 19-17.
But in the second quarter, plays on both ends of the floor pushed MSU to its first double-digit lead at 29-19 on a driving layup by Hood. The advantaged swelled to as may as 14 points at 39-25 on a 3-pointer by Deville Smith with 1:57 to play. At the half, the score read 41-30.
"We just kept pressuring them and forcing turnovers," Lewis said.
Did they ever.
The Bulldogs opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run, while forcing five turnovers in St. Jan's first six possessions.
And it was in the third that MSU built its biggest lead at 71-42 on a putback by Shawn Long.
"You know, everyone battled and played hard," Stansbury said. "And I think you've seen this team improve with every game over here. And that's what you want to see."
The Bulldogs are off on Friday as they make the four-hour bus ride to Paris. Their final game is set for 9 a.m. CT on Saturday.