In the second half, the Bulldogs shot 53.3 percent from the floor and expanded a 35-31 halftime lead.
“We may have underestimated them to start the game,” MSU sophomore guard Craig Sword said. “They got our attention early. We played a lot better in the second half and got a good win.”
MSU improved to 2-0 on the season with a dominating final stanza. MSU placed five players in double figures and forced 26 turnovers.
“I think the players may have got caught up the name of the opponent and their record and they took things too lightly to start the game,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “Kennesaw has some athletes. We just had to go out and grind. I don’t think we came here tonight with the mind-set to grind for 40 minutes.
“We are the type of team that has to grind for 40 minutes to be successful.”
Strong 3-point shooting allowed Kennesaw State to hold the early lead. A 3-pointer by Nigel Pruitt and follow-up basket by Yonel Brown placed the Owls on top 18-14. The Bulldogs took the lead for good at 20-19 on a free throw by Fred Thomas with 8:33 left in the contest.
A layup by Roquez Johnson ran the lead to 27-21 with 6:14 left in the half. Kennesaw State hung tough though and trailed only 35-31 at the break.
“In the second half, we had to defend a lot better,” MSU sophomore guard Fred Thomas said. “In the first half, we lost our man too many times. In the second half, we did a lot better job on defense and that is why we were able to build a big lead.”
Dre Applewhite and IJ Ready sparked a quick burst to start the second half. A spinning jumper in the lane by Applewhite ran the lead to 42-33 with 16:04 left. A 10-3 run by MSU pushed the Maroon and White advantage to 52-41 with 11:07 left.
MSU took advantage of strong second-half shooting and foul trouble for Kennesaw State to push the lead to as many as 23 in the closing minutes.
“All around a solid effort,” Ray said. “We got some really solid minutes off the bench from Dre (Applewhite) and Roquez (Johnson). Gavin (Ware) only got four shots from the field. We have to get him more touches. But for the most part, we played well, especially on the defensive end.
“Sometimes we get too consumed with our offense.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 28 of 60 shots from the field (46.7 percent), 8 of 23 shots from 3-point range (34.8 percent) and 14 of 25 shots from the foul line (56.0 percent). The Owls hit 20 of 44 shots from the field (45.5 percent), 6 of 17 shots from 3-point range (35.3 percent) and 9 of 17 shots from the foul line (52.9 percent).
The teams were even at 33 in rebounds. MSU had 16 assists and 12 turnovers, while Kennesaw State had 14 assists and 26 turnovers.
Fred Thomas led MSU with 17 points, while Colin Borchert added 15 points, Craig Sword added 13 points and Trivante Bloodman added 11 points. Ware fell a point shy of his second double-double as he had nine points to go along with a team-high 10 rebounds.
Kennesaw State was led by 15 points from Brown.
MSU will host Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. Tuesday.