Special to the Journal
STARKVILLE – Once again, Mississippi State coach Rick Ray faced depth issues in the Bulldogs’ season opener. But unlike last season, Ray and his squad were able to pull away down the stretch and open the season with a victory.
The Bulldogs outscored Prairie View A&M 9-1 in the games’ final three minutes to notch a 71-56 victory in front of 2,848 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU sophomore Gavin Ware had 15 points and a career-best 15 rebounds for his third career double-double. In his first collegiate game, rookie point guard I.J. Ready added 14 points for the Bulldogs while Roquez Johnson finished with 11 points.
“I know the score doesn’t indicate it but I thought we actually played better in the second half,” Ray said. “One thing I was concerned about is (Prairie View) takes a lot of threes. When you take a lot of threes, there tends to be a lot of long defensive rebounds. So I wanted to make sure we were able to chase those down.”
Ready was 6-of-10 from the floor and also had three assists and three steals. Andre Applewhite finished with nine points and nine boards.
“It was great,” said Ready. “Everything I’ve been doing since I got here in June, I went out there and put it on the floor with our team. I don’t care about anything but winning and that is all I want to do.”
Montrael Scott led Prairie View A&M with 15 points.
Mississippi State played without sophomore Fred Thomas, who served a one-game suspension by the NCAA. Thomas’ suspension was due to a violation of the NCAA outside competition rule related to a summer all-star game.
Ray said Thomas would return to action Thursday when the Bulldogs host Kennesaw State for their second game of the season.
Mississippi State led by double digits for much of the second half. Prairie View did cut the lead to 62-55 with 3:50 left in the game but that was as close as the Panthers would get.
For the game, MSU shot 42.2 percent and had a 51-27 edge in rebounds.
“We still had too many turnovers and that is something we talked about again,” said Ray. “I thought we did a good job addressing one issue – rebounding. Now we got to do a better job with our turnovers.”
(W) MSU 76, Houston 68: Breanna Richardson’s 14 led five players in double figures as the Bulldogs opened with a road victory.
Katia May had 11 assists for MSU, which held a 54-44 edge in rebounding.