SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Mississippi State’s best first half of the season was enough Sunday afternoon.
The Bulldogs built a 20-point lead and withstood a spirited second half push by Missouri State to post an 84-70 victory in the final game of the weekend at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic.
MSU (2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak by shooting 59.3 percent from the field, including a 3-of-6 first half from 3-point range.
“The first half was all up for us,” MSU head coach Ben Howland said. “It was our best half of the year by far. We shared the basketball (12 assists at the half) and played defense the way we are supposed to. We played defense without fouling. We had some unselfish play on offense.
“You can see our potential. We shared the ball and played through Gavin (Ware). But you have to have the same edge throughout a game.”
Ware finished with a game-high 25 points on 12-of-16 shooting. Ware has now scored 20 points or better in three of the team’s first five games. Malik Newman added 14 points, while I.J. Ready had 13 points and Craig Sword had 12 points.
Ready had his first career double-double as he added a career-high 11 assists. Travis Daniels added nine points and eight rebounds, including four critical offensive boards.
“This was the first time all year we had been ahead at halftime,” Howland said. “We have to learn how to play a lead and we will do that. We had some great preparation time (Saturday with a day away from playing) and that really paid off in this game. We were well-prepared and did a great job of starting the game strong.”
The Bulldogs hit six of their first seven shots and built a 17-4 lead on back-to-back baskets by Ware. The Bulldogs pushed the lead to 15 twice, including on a basket by Ready.
Missouri State closed within 10 before MSU followed with a 16-6 run to take a 42-22 lead. The Bulldogs shot 70 percent from the field in the opening half and led 45-27 at the intermission.
“We have a lot of room to grow,” Howland said. “We will have two days off and then we practice hard Wednesday. We have Thanksgiving together as a team. We need this time together to get better.”
Missouri State closed within 51-46 on a 14-2 run. Strong play inside by Ware and the rebounding ability of Daniels kept the Bears at bay. After seeing the lead cut to four (at 55-51 and 57-53), Newman capped a 6-0 run with a layup to put the contest away.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 35 of 59 shots from the field (59.3 percent), 5 of 18 shots from 3-point range (27.8 percent) and 9 of 13 shots from the foul line (69.2 percent). The Bears hit 24 of 56 shots from the field (42.9 percent), 5 of 17 shots from 3-point range (29.4 percent) and 17 of 23 shots from the foul line (73.9 percent).
Missouri State held a 33-28 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had a season-high 20 assists and committed a season-low 10 turnovers, while the Bears had 12 assists and 14 turnovers.
Missouri State (0-4) received 17 points from Chris Kendrix, 13 points from Camyn Boone and 12 points from Dorrian Williams.
MSU returns to the Humphrey Coliseum for a noon tip-off against Tennessee-Martin Saturday. The contest is the first of a two-sport doubleheader on campus with the nationally-ranked MSU football team playing arch-rival Ole Miss at 6:15 p.m. at Davis Wade Stadium that day.
(From MSU Media Relations)