STARKVILLE – Mississippi State fell behind early to Kennesaw State on Thursday night, with the Owls knocking down eight of their first 10 shots.
But the Bulldogs (2-0) were able to regroup for a 78-55 victory.
“We didn’t have the mentality that we were going to come in and grind,” said MSU coach Rick Ray. “I think (our players) saw their name and record and thought they could add water, stir and blow out a win. I don’t think that’s who we are or who we’re going to be. We’ve got to have a mentality of grinding it out.”
MSU trailed by four points nine minutes into the game but managed a 35-31 lead by halftime. The Bulldogs went on to outscore Kennesaw State 43-24 in the second half.
“Coach Ray wore us out (at halftime),” said MSU guard Craig Sword. “He said that we underestimated them early so we came out in the second half and pushed up the tempo.”
State shot 46.7 percent from the field and broke even with the Owls in the rebounding column at 33. The Bulldogs also drained eight shots from the outside the 3-point arc.
Fred Thomas led all scorers with 17 points in his first outing returning from a NCAA-mandated one-game suspension. Thomas was 6-of-14 from the floor including 4-of-8 behind the arc.
“I felt pretty good about my first game of the season,” Thomas said. “I got involved with the team offensively and defensively.”
Colin Borchert scored 15 points for Mississippi State while Sword put up 13. Trivante Bloodman added 11 points in 16 minutes off the bench and Roquez Johnson chipped in 10 in 25 minutes.
Gavin Ware paced the Bulldogs with 10 rebounds and was 4-of-4 from the floor, finishing just shy of a double-double with nine points.
Freshman point guard I.J. Ready left the game with a leg injury at the 5:27 mark of the second half and did not return. Ray did not have an update on Ready’s status after the game.
Redshirt freshman Jacoby Davis made his collegiate debut for the Bulldogs late in the second half. Davis missed the 2012-13 season with an ACL tear.
Kennesaw State (1-4) shot 45.5-percent on the night and was led in scoring by Yonel Brown with 15 points.
MSU returns to action Tuesday hosting Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m.