STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State moved to 3-0 with a 94-72 men’s basketball win against Mississippi Valley State Tuesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs scored a season-high 94 points and shot a season-best 52.2 percent from the field. MSU scored the game’s first four points and held a double-digit lead for all but one possession over the final 24 minutes, 31 seconds.
“It is always good to get a win,” MSU coach Rick Ray said. “We did a great job of feeding the ball in the post to the big men. That does not only include Gavin Ware, who had a great night, but also getting the ball into Roquez (Johnson) and Colin (Borchert).”
Through the first two games of the season, Ray has talked about the need to get more touches inside the paint for Ware. His sophomore from Starkville responded with his fourth career double-double, including a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds.
“I have to really commend my guards for helping me get some open looks,” Ware said. “Coach told me before the game that the emphasis would be on me tonight. I knew it was important to be strong on the boards and take advantage of the mis-matches down low.
“When the other team collapsed on me that meant more open looks on the outside.”
The Bulldogs offensive game plan worked to near perfection. MSU dished out 17 assists and only committed a season-low 11 turnovers.
“We ran a set play for Gavin on the opening possession of the game,” Ray said. “Gavin did a great job of not only posting but finishing as well all night.”
Ware scored seven of his team’s first 11 points as the Bulldogs quickly sprinted to an 11-4 lead. A jumper by Craig Sword ran the lead to 19-8 with 13:22 left in the first half.
Sword later scored back-to-back baskets as the lead was quickly pushed up to 30-17 with 5:30 left in the half. The Bulldogs shot 58.8 percent from the floor in the first half and led 44-29 at the intermission.
“Coach talked about how we had been coming out slow to start games,” said MSU junior point guard Trivante Bloodman, who played in place of injured started I.J. Ready. “We got in transition and forced some turnovers. They led to easy baskets and everybody was scoring the basketball. When we get the offense going in transition, it is good night for us.”
Bloodman had eight points, five assists and four steals in 27 minutes of action. Jacoby Davis also saw his first extended playing time of the season with 13 minutes at a guard position.
In the second half, the Delta Devils (1-3) closed with nine at 52-43 with 15:14 left in the contest. The Bulldogs then used a 12-4 run – highlighted by two steals from Bloodman and a 3-pointer from Borchert – to move back out of danger.
MSU would build as large as a 27 point lead in the closing minutes.
“We did a lot of things well offensively,” Ray said. “The only major disappointment was on the defensive end. We let Mississippi Valley shoot way too high a percentage (47.5 percent). You need to be able to guard your man without a lot of help. Right now, we are relying on the help way too much.
“Offensively, we did a lot of things well and are improving. Defensively, we have to tighten up the screws considerably.”
Ware was joined in double figures by Borchert (14 points), Johnson (12 points) and Sword (10 points). Dre Applewhite added nine points, seven rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes of action.
MVSU received 19 points from DeAngelo Priar, 12 points from Anthony McDonald and 10 points from James Currington.
MSU plays its first road game of the season Saturday at Utah State. The Bulldogs and Aggies tip at 8 p.m. CT in Logan, UT. MSU returns home for a 1 p.m. start Wednesday against Jackson State.