Sword leads MSU past Missouri and into win column

Mississippi State's Craig Sword, right, drives past Missouri's D'Angelo Allen during the second half. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Mississippi State’s Craig Sword, right, drives past Missouri’s D’Angelo Allen during the second half. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Mississippi State built a 17-point first-half lead and withstood a furious Missouri rally to post a 77-74 win in Southeastern Conference men’s basketball action Saturday at Mizzou Arena.

MSU shot a conference season-best 56.1 percent from the floor and was able to rally in the closing minutes after losing an 11-point halftime advantage.

With the win, MSU improved to 12-13 overall and 5-7 in league play. The Bulldogs have now won three road games in league play for the first time since the 2011-12 season. MSU currently stands in 10th place in the conference standings, which would mean a first-round bye at the league tournament.

Missouri dropped its 11th straight to fall to 7-18 and 1-11.

“It is hard for our guys to play with a lead on the road,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “Our guys are learning how to battle back. People talk about Missouri’s record but these guys fight hard and compete. We really calmed down down the stretch and got to the free throw line. That was the difference in the game.”

Roquez Johnson and Craig Sword led the dynamic MSU offensive attack as each scored 22 points. Johnson has had four 20-plus point games this season. Meanwhile, Sword is averaging a team-best 12.8 points in conference play.

Missouri built an early 8-5 lead before MSU took control with seven-straight points. After Missouri trimmed it to 12-11, MSU answered with the game’s next eight points. Back-to-back baskets by Johnson and Gavin Ware helped create a 20-11 lead.

A 13-2 run by MSU extended the lead to 33-16 with 7:21 left in the half. A 3-pointer by Fred Thomas capped that run.

Missouri closed within 40-29 at halftime.

“Once we built the big lead, we quit sharing the basketball,” Ray said. “When we are in transition, we want to attack. However, when it is not there, we have to make good passes and good plays. You can’t turn the ball over with 27 seconds on the shot clock. We were just in too much of a rush because things came easily for us early.”

In the second half, the Tigers started strong and battled back to a 46-42 deficit with 15:07 left.

Missouri kept battling and actually surged ahead at 64-63 on a layup by Keanau Post with 4:29 remaining.

A layup by Johnson grabbed the lead right back. A steal by Travis Daniels led to a layup by Sword. From there, the Bulldogs moved to the free throw line to seal out the win.

For the contest, MSU hit 23 of 41 shots from the field (56.1 percent), 5 of 11 shots from 3-point range (45.5 percent) and 26 of 33 shots from the foul line (78.8 percent). Missouri hit 26 of 59 shots from the field (44.1 percent), 8 of 26 shots from 3-point range (30.8 percent) and 14 of 21 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).

Missouri held a 33-28 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 12 turnovers, while the Tigers had 13 assists and 13 turnovers.

Johnathan Williams led Missouri with 27 points, while Keith Shamburger had 15 points and Ryan Rosburg had 12 points.

MSU returns home for three-straight games at Humphrey Coliseum, starting with a Thursday night meeting with in-state rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs and Rebels meet at 8 p.m. CT, with ESPN2 handling the national telecast from the Hump.

(From MSU Media Relations)

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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