Mississippi State and Utah State went back and forth exchanging blows.
In the end, it was the Bulldogs who came out victorious.
MSU beat Utah State 71-63 Saturday afternoon inside Humphrey Coliseum in a game that featured 18 lead changes and nine ties.
“This is a great win for our guys in the program,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “We said our objective before the season started, we wanted to be in serious conversation for postseason basketball. The only way you can do that is beating quality teams like Utah State.”
The Bulldogs (3-0) closed the game out on a 14-5 run in the final six minutes. The Aggies (3-1) made one field goal in the final six minutes of the ballgame, with a pair of free throws to keep it close.
“We just picked up the pressure,” MSU point guard Trivante Bloodman said. “We went man because we played a lot of zone in the first half. We got to man, we pressured them, got some turnovers and we ran in transition and got baskets.”
Fred Thomas and Roquez Johnson each had 15 points to lead the Bulldogs. Gavin Ware scored 12 points, with 10 of those coming in the second half.
The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Aggies 38-21 and they have out-rebounded all three opponents this season by at least 12.
“No offense to them, but we knew that we would be able to get offensive rebounds against them,” Ware, a former Starkville High School standout, said. “They’re a good ball club, but we just had an advantage getting rebounds off the glass.”
Sophomore point guard I.J. Ready saw his first action of the season after sitting out the first two games after having back surgery. The Little Rock, Ark., native played only 15 minutes but had two points – two free throws late in the game to help seal the victory.
Ready was informed an hour before the game that he was cleared medically.
“I was zoned in ready to go, but I really didn’t expect to get in,” Ready said.
The Aggies led 38-34 at halftime and made a 3-pointer to start the second half, but MSU scored eight-straight points after that and outscored Utah State 37-25 in the second half.
Utah State was led by Darius Perkins and Chris Smith with 14 points. Jalen Moore had 13. The Aggies made 10 3-pointers, but only three of those came in the second half.