Bulldogs Roll Past Braves To Snap Skid

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Freshman guard Craig Sword finished with 14 points as Mississippi State beat Alcorn State, 60-42.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

STARKVILLE, Miss. - A strong start carried Mississippi State past Alcorn State 60-42 Tuesday at Humphrey Coliseum as the Bulldogs found the win column and improved 2-0 at home.

MSU bounced back from a difficult three-game stretch at the EA Sports Maui Invitational last week to post its second-straight double-digit win at the Hump.

"We wanted to carry the things we learned in Hawaii into this game," said MSU freshman center Gavin Ware, who made his first career start. "Even though we lost the games, we learned about a lot about our team. We wanted to carry the positives into playing back here at home. It felt good to get the win."

Fellow freshmen Craig Sword and Fred Thomas each led the Bulldogs with 14 points apiece. Sword became the fourth different Bulldog to lead MSU in scoring this season, while setting a new career high. Sword also added four rebounds, two assists and five steals in 34 minutes of play.

"I am beginning to feel comfortable in the offense," Sword said. "I thought it was my most complete game. The key to the win was the defensive effort. We really guarded them. The coaches told us defensive rebounding was going to be important."

The Bulldogs took the rebounding advice to heart. MSU held a 50-20 rebounding advantage. Gavin Ware and Roquez Johnson combined to pull down 19 rebounds, only one less than Alcorn State as a team.

"I thought our defensive effort and our rebounding was really good," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "We did a good job in the toughness characters. They have some height so rebounding was important as we did a great job of limiting their second shots."

Thanks in part to six points by Roquez Johnson, the Bulldogs immediately built a 13-2 advantage. After Alcorn State battled back within seven, MSU answered with a 10-2 run to open up a 24-9 lead. Sword completed an old-fashioned 3-point play with 7:58 left before halftime to create that lead.

The Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the floor in the opening half and led 37-21 at the intermission.

"The kids have a comfort level playing at home," Ray said. "Of course, that is what we want. You should feel comfortable playing in your gym. Now, we have to find a way to take that with us on the road."

MSU (2-4) continued its air-tight defense as Alcorn State (2-5) did not top the 40-point mark until the final shot of the contest.

The Bulldogs ran the lead to 19 points at 44-25 on a jumper by Colin Borchert with 13:12 remaining. The lead would grow to as many as 26 at 58-32 on two Borchert free throws.

"An overall good effort," Ray said. "The turnover-to-assist ration remains a concern. We have to get better in that area."

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 18 of 44 shots from the field (40.9 percent), 2 of 13 shots from 3-point range (15.4 percent) and 22 of 33 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). The Braves hit 15 of 53 shots from the field (28.3 percent), 4 of 17 shots from 3-point range (23.5 percent) and 8 of 17 shots from the foul line (47.1 percent).

MSU held a 50-20 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had six assists and 21 turnovers, while the Braves had four assists and 16 turnovers.

Johnson added 13 points for the Bulldogs. Ware had a team-high 12 rebounds.

Alcorn State received 12 points from Anthony Evans and 11 points from LeAntwan Luckett.

The Bulldogs hit the road Saturday for their involvement in this season's SEC/Big East Challenge. MSU will play at Providence in an 11 a.m. CT contest, scheduled to air nationally on ESPNU.



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