By Mississippi State University
STARKVILLE – Defending NAIA champions Pikeville Bears gave Mississippi State an early run for its money, but a balanced and dominating second-half performance by the Bulldogs’ starting five closed the door on Pikeville’s upset bid.
Led by 17-point performances by freshman Rodney Hood and Jalen Steele, the Bulldogs outscored the Bears 54-32 in the second half to win their final exhibition match of the 2011 season, 94-70, at Humphrey Coliseum.
A three by Hood five minutes into the second-half sparked a 20-4 run for the Maroon and White, as they jumped out to a 19-point lead and never looked back. State shot 55.6% from the field and 41.7% from three in the second-half to lock up the victory.
MSU’s starting lineup put up solid performances, including one double-double from Arnett Moultrie, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Renardo Sidney had 12 and 5 rebounds. Dee Bost put in a strong, game-leading 32 minutes with 16 points, 4 assists, and 5 steals. Brian Bryant delivered 12 points with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Jalen Steele, coming back from an ACL injury suffered last season, led bench scoring with 17 points in 22 minutes of playing time.
“I felt good,” Steele said. “I knew coming off the bench I had a job to do and what I had to do.”
Pikeville showed Mississippi State why it is defending NAIA National Champions, leading for a majority of the first-half and only down two at the break.
“I want to give credit to Pikeville, because they showed why they are defending NAIA champions,” Stansbury said. “They are a good basketball team.”
State took the early lead with a Bryant free throw, but a jumper by Setty gave the Bears a lead they would not relinquish for the next nine minutes. A three by guard Jamar Board with 16:05 left in the first gave Pikeville its largest lead of the game at six.
With the score tied, Bost capitalized off a turnover by the Bears by draining a three, giving the Bulldogs the lead for the remainder of the game.
The Dogs put up solid numbers from all-around in the first half, including 53.6 percent from the field and out-performed Pikeville in the paint, 20-10.
In the second half, the Dogs hit another gear the Bear’s just couldn’t keep up with and even found time for the Gold Team to make an earlier appearance than normal with a little over two minutes remaining.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 35 of 64 shots from the field (54.7 percent), 8 of 22 shots from long-range (36.4 percent), and 16 of 24 from the charity stripe (66.7 percent). Pikeville hit 30 of 72 shots from the field (41.7 percent), 6 of 26 from three (23.1 percent), and only 4 of 10 from the foul line (40.0 percent).
Mississippi State dominated in the paint, 50-22, and held the slight edge on rebounds, 41-39.
Pikeville received a team-leading 18 points, along with six rebounds, from Trevor Setty, who managed nine points each half. Jamar Board put up 17 points for the Bear’s, but was held to only five in the second half of play.
The Bulldogs will officially tip-off their 100th season of basketball Monday with a 7 p.m. tilt against Eastern Kentucky at Humphrey Coliseum. The match-up is the first game in the regional rounds of the 2k Classic.