By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Free throws have been a point of contention for Mississippi State all season.
The Bulldogs were shooting just 61.1 percent from the charity stripe entering Tuesday night’s meeting with Florida A&M. Coach Rick Ray has been holding an extra practice session each day since the fall semester ended just to work on free throws.
The additional work paid off as MSU converted 33 of its 45 free throw attempts in a 78-65 victory over the Rattlers.
“We just kept attacking and when you’re scoring from the (free throw) line that’s good,” said MSU shooting guard Craig Sword.
It was the most free throws the Bulldogs have made since Dec. 8, 2001 against Arkansas State and the most attempts since Feb. 27, 2002 versus Arkansas.
Sword knocked down 10 of his 12 free throw attempts and finished with a game-high 16 points.
Dre Applewhite notched his first career double-double with a career-high 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“It felt good,” Applewhite said of his performance. “Having the great teammates that I have has motivated me to keep working and play hard. Coach Ray instills in us every day to play hard and his wife made some good cookies before the game and that motivated me too.”
Colin Borchert and Trivante Bloodman added 10 points each as State improved to 7-2 on the year. The Bulldogs shot 39.2-percent from the floor and led by as many as 26 points.
Mississippi State shot 52-percent in the first half building a 42-27 lead at the break.
Florida A&M drained eight 3-pointers but also committed 15 turnovers falling to 2-8 on the year. All eight of the Rattlers losses have come on the road.
D’Andre Bullard led Florida A&M with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
The Bulldogs will not have long to recover returning to action Thursday night against Florida Gulf Coast, who advanced to the Sweet 16 last season. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. on CSS.
“I think we have some momentum going into our next game,” said MSU guard Tyson Cunningham. “We have a pretty decent record right now and have some confidence going in. We’re just trying to stay together, keep competing and fighting hard at practice so we can keep this momentum going.”