After a rough come-from-behind loss just before 2012 ended, the new year brought better tidings for Rick Ray and Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs trounced the University of New Orleans 97-46 in The Hump.
“This is a really big win for us on a lot of fronts,” Ray said. “We had to get over the public embarrassment of losing to Alabama A&M.”
Ray bemoaned the way his team played when it was up big on A&M but then went on a scoring drought and “started playing basketball,” which ultimately led to a loss.
MSU was up big at the half tonight, but UNO came out strong in the second half and went on a run, prompting Ray to call a timeout.
When he brought his guys to the bench, Ray said he held up his dry erase board and said, “There’s nothing on here I can show you that will make you not play bad basketball.”
He told the team they couldn’t do what they did against A&M. After the timeout, MSU went on a 17-0 run and never looked back.
State had several score in double-figures, and also set season-highs in scoring, three pointers made and blocked shots.
The massive victory comes at a good time for MSU, as it begins SEC play on the 9th in Starkville against South Carolina, the first conference game for Ray with the Bulldogs.
Junior forward Colin Borchert had a career night, leading the team with 17 points, the best outing of his career at MSU. Ray said the key for Borchert was improving his defensive game, something he used to struggle with, giving the coaches the confidence they needed to put him on the floor consistently.
The hot shooting was a theme on the night, as even the craziest shots seemed to fall in for MSU, who shot 56.5 percent from the field and a burning 52.4 percent from three-point range.
Jalen Steele, in his second game back from injury, paired with freshman Fred Thomas for 32 points (16 each) and six three-pointers.
“It’s slowly coming back, I’m starting to feel it,” Steele said. “By next game, I should have it fully back.”
Thomas had one is his better shooting nights, getting some confidence and hitting 6-13 field goals and 2-7 from beyond the arc.
Two more players scored in double-digits as forwards Roquez Johnson (14) and Gavin Ware (10) had frequent success in the post, which Ware credits to a new style.
“We got a lot of open looks tonight,” he said.”
Point guard Trivante Bloodman and guard Craig Sword chipped for nine more each and Tyson Cunningham rounded out the scoring with six points.
More important to Ray, however, were the defensive stats, as the Bulldogs tallied nine blocks and 14 steals, holding the Privateers to 46 points.
Ray may not be happy with the 17 turnovers, though with 17 assists, it’s a better ratio than MSU has had in some losses.
The Bulldogs return to action next Wednesday in Starkville against South Carolina.