Strong second half surge propels MSU

STARKVILLE, Miss. - For a 6-foot-3 guard, Mississippi State's Brian Bryant has some hops.
Bryant jammed home a couple of ram-rattling dunks and added three 3-point baskets en route to a game-high 21 points as the Bulldogs raced past Florida Tech 97-63 in a men's basketball exhibition game played Saturday afternoon in the Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs pulled down 54 rebounds, shot 51 percent from the floor and blew open a once-tight game to win the first of two exhibition games scheduled for the season. A 27-13 run to open the second half allowed the hosts to build on a shaky 40-33 halftime advantage.
"We dribble the ball and pass the ball much better than we have in several years," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "Those abilities put you in a position to do some things. After that, it was simply a matter of players making basketball plays."
MSU received three double-doubles. Arnett Moultrie had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Renardo Sidney had 11 points and 11 rebounds. In 21 very strong minutes off the bench, Wendell Lewis added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"We have the pieces, it is just a matter of putting everything together," Stansbury said. "In the second half, we defended better and really wore them down. The offensive execution was good for a first game. Obviously, we have a long way to go. However, we did a lot of things well today and that is very encouraging."
Florida Tech, an NCAA Division II school located in Melbourne, hung tough through the first 20 minutes. With MSU struggling to find offensive consistency early, the Panthers built out leads of 16-12 and 20-16.
The Bulldogs then found some hustle on the defensive end. Arnett Moultrie rammed home a dunk. Dee Bost then got a steal at midcourt and fed Moultrie, who again rocked the Hump with a glide move around an overmatched Tech defender for the easy lay-in.
Tech again had two more leads before the Maroon and White seized control for good with a 9-0 run. Back-to-back baskets by Jalen Steele and another layup by Moultrie capped the run as the hosts suddenly led, 34-26.
"We really starting sharing the ball better," Stansbury said. "Obviously, we had a few more athletes. What you liked to see was our offensive rhythm. I thought we came out real tight to start the game. There was some nervousness.
"Once we got into a flow and got control of the game, I thought our movement of the ball was really good."
The Bulldogs only made one 3-point basket and shot 44.4 percent from the field while taking the seven-point lead at halftime.
The final 20 minutes proved a much different story. After the Maroon and White took command of the contest, an impromptu dunk contest broke out. The Bulldogs delighted the crowd with a series of alley oops, as they worked their transition offense to near perfection. Even the Gold Team got into action with Taylor Luczak draining an 18-foot jumper in the closing seconds.
"The biggest thing may be the 54 rebounds," Stansbury said. "Of that total, 16 were on the offensive end. Wendell had seven, Sid had four and Arnett had four. If you are able to make shots and then give yourselves extra chances, you have a chance to be successful.
"The rebounding aspect and the sharing of the basketball were the things that pleased me the most."
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 39 of 77 shots from the field (50.6 percent), 7 of 19 shots from 3-point range (38.8 percent) and 12 of 16 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent). Florida Tech hit 22 of 74 shots from the field (29.7 percent), 4 of 26 shots from 3-point range (15.4 percent) and 15 of 20 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent).
MSU held a 54-41 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 19 assists and 11 turnovers, while the Panthers had nine assists and 13 turnovers.
For MSU, Bost added 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. DeVille Smith added eight points, three rebounds and five assists in 17 very impressive minutes off the bench.
Florida Tech received a team-high 20 points from Julius Reed. The 6-1 junior only managed four points in the second half. Also in double figures were Derek Hellemann with 17 points and Jermaine Jackson with 11 points. Edgars Eglitis pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Bulldogs close exhibition play with a 7 p.m. Friday matchup with NAIA foe Pikeville College. Admission will be free at the Humphrey Coliseum.