Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele, left, looks to pass the basketball inside against New Orleans Thursday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Overcoming scoring droughts is something Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Ray is looking for his squad to do.
The Bulldogs routed the University of New Orleans 97-46 Thursday evening inside Humphrey Coliseum.
"If we continue to get stops and not turn the basketball over, we are still going to be up 15 points," Ray said. "We have to have that mindset when we have those scoring droughts. We are going to have some of those scoring droughts. It's college basketball. When you look at what's going on in college basketball, it's hard to score."
The Bulldogs (5-7) scored a season-high 43 points in the first half and held UNO (3-9) to a season-low 16 points. The Privateers opened up the second half on a 4-0 run to cut the score to 43-16. Ray called a timeout.
"It had nothing to do with Xs and Os and things like that," Ray said. "I actually showed them the clipboard and said 'there is nothing I'm going to put on this clipboard that is going to help you here.'"
The Bulldogs answered with a 17-0 run from 16:51 to 12:42 to end the Privateers thoughts of winning.
MSU blew a 33-25 halftime lead against Alabama A&M on Sunday. The Bulldogs fell 59-57 to Alabama A&M inside the Hump.
"This game is where we put more emphasis on finishing the game this time," MSU junior guard Jalen Steele said. "The first 8 minutes against Alabama A&M is where we came out and we were going hard. I think we were doing everything perfect in that game, then we just slacked off in that second half. In the second half of this game we had to keep up the momentum and the intensity and we did that (Thursday night)."
It was hard for Ray and his squad to shake off the loss to Alabama A&M.
"This is a really good win for us on a lot of fronts," Ray said. "The thing I talked to our guys about after that Alabama A&M loss was we had to get over the public embarrassment of losing at home to Alabama A&M. That's a hard thing. We had to figure out a way to get better from this. The sad part about the Alabama A&M game was I thought that first 15 minutes of the game was the best we have ever played."
The Bulldogs opened the game on a 12-0 run. UNO didn't score its first points until the 14:40 mark when Rarlensee Nelson made a layup.
MSU forced 23 turnovers and only allowed seven assists. The Bulldogs scored 11 points on the fast break.
"I thought our guys are just really active," Ray said. "Once you force 23 turnovers, it gives you a chance to go out and play transition basketball. I don't care what team you are, you always play better in transition because you are playing advantage basketball. You are not playing against a set defense. That's what we want. We want our guys to get out and play in the open court. (We want to) play full-court basketball and have some chances to play against a defense that is not set."
The 51-point win was the largest of the season for the Bulldogs who improved to 4-1 at home and 5-1 when leading at the half.
The Privateers were led by Lovell Cook and Kevin Hill with seven points each.
In his second game back, Steele tied his season-high with 16 points. Freshman Fred Thomas each had 16 points. Sophomore Roquez Johnson added 14 points and freshman Gavin Ware from Starkville was two rebounds away from a third-straight double-double. He ended the night with 10 points and eight boards.
The Bulldogs open Southeastern Conference play Wednesday night when South Carolina comes to town for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
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