By School and wire reports
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s men’s basketball team, back in action for the first time in a week, appeared to be in control on Sunday afternoon against Alabama A&M with a 15-point lead late in the first half.
But a seven-minute scoring drought to open the second half opened the door for A&M’s 59-57 victory.
MSU (4-7) hit just 7 of 23 second-half field goal attempts and shot 35.7 percent (20 of 560 for the game.
“Obviously, it is a disappointing loss because it is a home loss,” said MSU head coach Rick Ray, whose team lost for the first time in four homecourt games this season. “You want to protect your home court.”
Alabama A&M (4-7) is the second Southwestern Athletic Conference team to beat a SEC team this season; Southern beat Texas A&M 53-51 on Dec. 22.
The effort spoiled the return of junior guard Jalen Steele, who scored 10 points in 27 minutes, his first action since fracturing a wrist on Nov. 13 against Florida Atlantic.
He hit back-to-back 3-pointers after entering the game at the 17:09 mark of the first half.
“It felt really good to be out there again,” Steele said. “Seeing the first shot go down was really good, too. In the second half, we made some turnovers and let them get back in the game. So, it’s a disappointing day but I enjoyed being back out there.”
Craig Sword led MSU with 14 points and Gavin Ware added 12 points and 11 rebounds. MSU led 33-25 at halftime.
Alabama A&M got 14 points each from Demarquelle Tabb and Jeremy Crutcher. A&M took the lead on a layup with 43 second left and Tabb blocked a late shot by Steele to help secure the victory.
MSU entertains New Orleans on Thursday at 6 p.m.