STARKVILLE – Mississippi State closed out the 2014 portion of its men’s basketball schedule with a 66-47 loss to McNeese State Tuesday night in the Humphrey Coliseum.
McNeese State (6-5) scored the game’s first eight points and never trailed in the contest.
“We have a problem here as a team finding five guys that we can count on consistently to start off a game with,” MSU coach Rick Ray said. “If you give a team like McNeese State a great start then they have confidence. Offensively, we have our struggles and we have to be so good defensively to override those struggles.
“The thing that is most disappointing is that (we are not competing) and (not playing hard). We have to find a way to fix that.”
In the opening half, the Bulldogs shot 47.6 percent from the floor but struggled defensively allowing the Cowboys to shoot 56.0 percent.
“We never got into our rhythm,” MSU sophomore point guard I.J. Ready said. “We just didn’t have energy tonight. We started off slow. We have had one good practice in the last three or four days and it’s hard to tell.”
A jumper by Craig Sword brought the Bulldogs within 17-13 with 10:17 left in the half. The Cowboys forced a pair of turnovers to start a 9-0 run for a 26-13 lead.
A follow-up 8-0 run stretched the McNeese State lead to 36-19 with 2:25 left in the half.
MSU (6-6) scored the first half’s four points and trailed 36-23.
“When we play opponents we think are good, we play hard with a lot of effort,” Ready said. “We have to find a way do that every game. We need every play on the team competing with a lot of energy to have any chance to be successful.”
The Bulldogs played with more spirit on the defensive end in the second half but could not close within 11 points after a basket by Sword.
Again down 11 midway through the second half, the Cowboys reeled off 12 straight points to remove all doubt from the contest.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 18 of 43 shots from the field (41.9 percent), 4 of 15 shots from 3-point range (26.7 percent) and 7 of 12 shots from the foul line (58.3 percent). The Cowboys hit 26 of 50 shots from the field (52.0 percent), 8 of 17 shots from 3-point range (47.1 percent) and 6 of 8 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent).
McNeese State held a 30-21 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had six assists and 10 turnovers, while the Cowboys had 15 assists and eight turnovers.
Sword led MSU with a season-high 11 points, while Ready added 10 points. Oliver Black had a career-high nine points in 26 minutes off the bench. Travis Daniels and Roquez Johnson each had a team-high four rebounds.
“Oliver played well,” Ray said. “He works hard and goes after every rebound. He plays hard every day in practice because he wants to win and he wants to be part of a winning program.”
McNeese State received 20 points from Desharick Guidry. Jamaya Burr added 13 points, while Austin Lewis had 12 points and Matthew Moss had 11 points.
MSU closes the non-conference portion of its schedule by playing host to Florida State Friday night. The Bulldogs and Seminoles have a 7:05 p.m. start with ESPNU set for the national telecast from the Humphrey Coliseum.
(From MSU Media Relations)