STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State used a dominating inside game to win its men’s basketball season opener Friday night.
Gavin Ware posted his third career double-double (15 points and 15 rebounds) and Roquez Johnson added 11 points as the Bulldogs used a strong second half surge to get past Prairie View A&M 71-56 in the Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU won its season opener for the first time under second-year head coach Rick Ray and also won its opener for the 23rd time in the past 29 seasons.
In his MSU debut, freshman guard IJ Ready added 14 points, two assists and three steals in 30 minutes of work.
“I had been waiting for this night since August,” Ready said. “It was exciting to get out there and to put to use what we had been doing in practice since August. It was really great to go out there, play a game and get a win like that. It is a good start.”
MSU shot 42.2 percent from the floor but was plagued by 21 turnovers. Despite the tighter restrictions on foul calling, the Bulldogs did well there, only being called for 19 personals.
Leading 62-55, the Bulldogs followed a timeout with three straight defensive turnovers and three baskets on the other end for a game-clinching 7-0 run.
“Basically, we were told to not worry about the score,” Ware said. “We just had to go out there and get some stops to win the game. That is what we did. Our defensive pressure bothered them. We just have to be more consistent with that. But we did the things that we needed to do late in the game there to get the win.”
MSU scored the game’s first five points and held a sizeable lead throughout the contest. A layup by Johnson capped an 11-2 run and extended the lead to 18-9. Prairie View closed within five at 22-17 only to see more full-court pressure lead to a 7-1 run and a 29-18 lead for the Bulldogs.
That last spurt helped push MSU to a 38-28 lead at the intermission.
“We did some things really well for the first game,” Ray said. “You saw some of the things that our new players are going to be able to do. IJ really provided a steady, calming influence from the point guard position. Down low, we missed some easy shot opportunities but we kept getting them.”
MSU extended the lead to 45-29 on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Ware. Still, the Panthers had a couple of strong offensive possessions where they beat the Bulldogs back down the court to stay in the contest.
A 3-point basket by Montrael Scott whittled the lead to 62-55 before the game-decisive run. That run included a layup by Trivante Bloodman, a 3-pointer by Ready and a layup by Colin Borchert.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 27 of 64 shots from the field (42.2 percent), 4 of 12 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 13 of 21 shots from the foul line (61.9 percent). The Cougars hit 19 of 50 shots from the field (38.0 percent), 3 of 22 shots from 3-point range (13.6 percent) and 15 of 21 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent).
MSU held a 51-27 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 13 assists and 21 turnovers, while the Panthers had six assists and 19 turnovers.
“I thought you saw a lot of poise down the stretch,” Ray said. “You saw a young team making basketball plays and learning how to put a team away. That is a good thing to see.”
Prairie View received 15 points from Montreal Scott, 13 points from Louis Munks and 11 points from Tre Hagood.MSU resumes it season-opening three-game homestand by playing host to Kennesaw State Thursday. Game time is 7 p.m. in the Humphrey Coliseum.