Per MSU Media Relations
Rookie Fred Thomas had a career-best 17 points Tuesday vs. Marquette
MAUI, Hawaii – Fred Thomas poured in a career-high 17 points but it was not enough as the Mississippi State men’s basketball team dropped an 89-62 decision to Marquette Tuesday afternoon at the EA Sports Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center.
The Bulldogs gave up the first eight points of the contest and later fell down 18-4 after a 10-0 run by the Golden Eagles. The Bulldogs allowed 29 first-half points off turnovers and failed to recover.
“Marquette is a team that plays hard and with a lot of toughness,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “They are going to compete on every possession. I don’t think we matched that intensity in the first half.”
With eight players in uniform, the Bulldogs had to battle through early foul troubles. A late-game in jury to Roquez Johnson did not help matters any either.
“We have two major problems with our depth right now,” Ray said. “First of all, we can’t hold guys accountable if they aren’t playing hard and aren’t competing. Then our other issue is when we mount a good run, we get fatigued and worn down. It is hard on us when it becomes a game of attrition.”
Still, the Bulldogs (1-3) did have some bright spots.
A true freshman, Thomas connected on 6-of-15 shots from the field, including a 4-of-8 night from 3-point range. Thomas also had only one turnover, three rebounds and a steal in 34 minutes of play.
“Fred has to make open shots for us,” Ray said. “He is a pure shooter. Sometimes, he gets too wrapped up in the shot, when he already has one he can make. He has to give us the same effort on the defensive end. However, we are going to get him there.”
Fellow freshman Gavin Ware scored a career high 11 points in 32 minutes. Ware has scored nine or more points in all four games as a Bulldog. The former Starkville High standout finished with six rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal as well.
After surrendering the game’s first eight points, the Bulldogs cut that deficit in half. Marquette scored the game’s next 10 points. Again, the Bulldogs battled back to an 18-9 deficit. Marquette continued its early offensive tear and pushed the lead back out to 25-9.
A dunk by Roquez Johnson brought the Bulldogs within 11 at 25-14. Marquette scored the game’s next seven points, thanks in to part to 15 first-half turnovers for the Bulldogs.
Marquette (3-1) shot 57.6 percent from the field in the first half and led 48-27 at the intermission. In the half, the Bulldogs managed only one assist, compared to the 15 turnovers.
“Our biggest problem on offense is our unwillingness to reverse the basketball,” Ray said. “We have guys who are looking for the killer play. We need the ball moving through the air more. That is how your break a defense down.”
In the second half, the Bulldogs got a spark from Johnson, who finished with 16 points, three blocks, a steal and eight rebounds in 26 minutes of work. The Bulldogs closed within 17 at 57-40 but could not get any closer. Still, the teams battled to almost even terms for most of the final half before a worn down Bulldog squad gave up some easy baskets late.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 20 of 52 shots from the field (38.5 percent), 5 of 12 shots from 3-point range (41.7 percent) and 17 of 23 shots from the foul line (73.9 percent). The Golden Eagles hit 37 of 71 shots from the field (52.1 percent), 7 of 11 shots from 3-point range (63.6 percent) and 8 of 9 shots from the foul line (88.9 percent).
Marquette held a 38-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had seven assists and 22 turnovers, while the Golden Eagles had 18 assists and 14 turnovers.
Marquette received 18 points from Vander Blue, 13 points from Trent Lockett and 11 points from Jamil Wilson.
The Bulldogs will face Texas in the seventh place game of the tournament Wednesday afternoon. That contest will start at 1:30 p.m. CT and be televised nationally by ESPNU.