STARKVILLE – Mississippi State began the Ben Howland in a big way Friday night.
The Bulldogs dispatched 2015 NCAA Tournament participant Eastern Washington 106-88 in front of a crowd of 9,931 at Humphrey Coliseum.
“I was worried about this game,” Howland said. “They are coming off an unbelievable season and were a terrible match-up for us. But I’m really proud of our team. We didn’t drop our heads when we were down and kept fighting. This will be a solid RPI win when we look back in March.”
It was the most points scored by MSU since Dec. 2011 against Troy. The Bulldogs’ high under Rick Ray last season was 89 points.
The game wasn’t always a blowout, State trailed most of the first half and trailed 51-48 at halftime. After falling behind by 10 early in the second, the Bulldogs persevered and went on a massive 56-28 run in the final 18:10.
“We didn’t panic, we stuck together and gritted it out,” said MSU guard I.J. Ready.
Mississippi State shot 62.1 percent from the field led by Gavin Ware‘s double-double. Ware scored a career-high 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting and collected 13 rebounds.
“Gavin Ware was tremendous tonight,” Howland said. “He kept us in the first half and ended up with a double-double tonight.”
It was also a career night for Ready, who scored 27 points and dished out six assists. Travis Daniels and Quinndary Weatherspoon added 12 points each and Fred Thomas chipped in 10.
MSU was able to pull off the win without talented true freshman Malik Newman. Newman dressed but sat out, still hampered by a turf toe injury.
“Until he goes through a full practice, which will be Sunday, we will hold him out,” Howland said. “We expect him to get some minutes Monday.”
The Bulldogs host Southern University Monday at 7 p.m.
Eastern Washington made 50.8 percent from the field led by Bogdan Bliznyuk and Felix Von Hofe with 21 points each.