STARKVILLE – Mississippi State ran its win streak to three in a row with a convincing 71-48 New Year’s Eve win against North Carolina Central Thursday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs closed out the non-conference portion of their slate under first-year coach Ben Howland in dominating fashion, and now turn their attention to SEC play Wednesday at home against Texas A&M.
Gavin Ware led the Bulldogs with 16 points, while Malik Newman added 15 and Quinndary Weatherspoon 14. Ware fell one rebound shy of a double-double as he grabbed a team-high nine boards.
“Really pleased with our defensive performance with the exception of the second shots given up,” Howland said. “We need more people to step up rebounding, especially in the zone. We are getting better at our movement. Offensively, I love how we are sharing the basketball.
“It has been that way three or four games now. Eighteen assists on 28 baskets is good. (Newman) and (Weatherspoon), our freshman guards, both played really well.”
The Bulldogs led from the start after scoring the game’s first five points. A jumper by Travis Daniels ran the lead to 9-2. A 3-point play by Weatherspoon ran the advantage to 18-7.
A jumper by Ware ran the lead to 22-8. The advantage grew to as many as 21 at 34-13.
In the opening half, NC Central converted only 6 of 34 shots from the field.
The Bulldogs continued their strong play on both ends of the floor in the second half.
The lead reached 30 at 65-35 on a putback by Weatherspoon and later reached at 31 at 68-37 on a 3-pointer by Fred Thomas.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 28 of their 54 shots from the field (51.9 percent), 6 of 21 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 9 of 13 shots from the foul line (69.2 percent). The Eagles hit 17-of-72 shots from the field (23.6 percent), 5 of 30 shots from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 9 of 13 shots from the foul line (69.2 percent).
NC Central held a 48-38 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 18 assists and 11 turnovers, while the Eagles had eight assists and 13 turnovers.
“This was an important win as we get ready for SEC play,” Howland said. “This will be the only conference game we have where school is not session. So we really need a crowd.”
Tip against the Aggies is set for 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
(From MSU Media Relations)