With the victory, MSU matched the overall win total from last season with 10. The Bulldogs (10-3) open Southeastern Conference play Wednesday at No. 15 Kentucky.
“It shows how far we have come as a team and how much growth we have had,” MSU senior forward Colin Borchert said. “Coach Ray is coaching us hard and putting us in a position. We have come out and been ready for the challenges. We are looking forward to getting started in conference play.”
Gavin Ware posted his fifth double-double this season and seventh overall with 21 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to pace the Bulldogs. Borchert led the offensive efforts with a career-high 22 points. Fred Thomas was also in double figures with 10 points.
Both teams struggled offensively early as UMES (2-9) held its only lead of the contest at 10-8 with more than eight minutes played. The Bulldogs answered with a 12-2 run to take a 20-12 lead on a layup by Ware with 5:50 left.
The Bulldogs stretched the first-half lead to as many as 10 and led 29-20 at the intermission.
“We really did a good job of getting the ball in the paint,” MSU freshman guard I.J. Ready said. ”With both Gavin and Roquez (Johnson), it was important that we use our size advantage.”
In the first half, MSU held a plus-eight rebounding advantage and only committed three fouls. MSU only shot 39.4 percent from the field but took advantage of its size and offensive productivity to build the lead.
In the second half, a 9-0 run by MSU stretched the lead to 45-27. A 3-point basket by Fred Thomas capped that run with 14:48 left in the contest.
The Bulldogs led by 19 a couple of minutes later. UMES cut the lead to 10 with seven straight points and later got within nine twice after a flurry of late 3-point baskets.
“I thought this was a good win for us,” MSU coach Rick Ray said. “Last year, we won out 10th game in March. To be able to do that in January is good for this team. Our emphasis was on the high-low and I thought we did a really good job of getting the ball inside.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 29 of 62 shots from the field (46.8 percent), 6 of 15 shots from 3-point range (40.0 percent) and 13 of 18 shots from the foul line (72.2 percent). The Hawks hit 26 of 63 shots from the field (41.3 percent), 8 of 29 shots from 3-point range (27.6 percent) and 3 of 4 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent).
MSU held a 43-29 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 18 assists and 13 turnovers, while the Hawks had 15 assists and 11 turnovers.
UMES received 18 points from KyRee Jones, 15 points from Isaac Smith and 11 points from Devon Walker.
MSU and Kentucky meet at 7 p.m. CT Wednesday from Rupp Arena. The contest will be televised regionally on The SEC Network.