Per MSU Media Relations
JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi State took the show on the road Saturday afternoon and found another victory.
The Bulldogs knocked off Central Arkansas 79-72 in a men’s basketball contest played at the Mississippi Coliseum. MSU improved to 15-6 overall and won its 12th straight in the annual pre-Christmas contest played away from the Humphrey Coliseum.
“It feels really good to win a road game,” said MSU head coach Rick Ray, who notched his first victory away from the MSU campus. “Even though, it was not a true road game, we approached it like one. We wanted to come out and find a way to do continue some of the things that we had been doing at home.”
MSU placed five players in double figures for the first time this season while scoring a season-best 79 points.
Starkville native Gavin Ware had a career-high 22 points and career-high 13 rebounds. Trivante Bloodman added a career-high 12 points, while Colin Borchert had a career-high 11 points and Tyson Cunningham had a career-high 10 points. Craig Sword also added 10 points.
“As a team, we came together before the game and talked about getting everybody involved,” Cunningham said. “We wanted to do some things on offense where everybody got some touches. Once Gavin started out hot like that, we made sure to run the offense through him.”
Ware shifted to the big man role Saturday and delivered. MSU was playing its first game since center Wendell Lewis suffered a knee injury in practice.
“I knew I had to step it up,” Ware said. “Once I got a couple of dunks to go down, it really opened up the offense. Fortunately, everybody was able to make shots.”
The Bulldogs missed nine 3-point attempts before getting four of their final six to go down. MSU built a comfortable lead midway through the first half and led 34-25 at halftime.
MSU stretched the lead to 15 in the early stages of the second half but the long-range shooting of Central Arkansas (4-5) allowed the Bears to stay in the contest. UCA drew within six points midway through the second half. Stellar ball control and a strong night at the free throw line allowed the Maroon and White to close out the win.
“Right now, it is all about getting better,” Ray said. “Each game we approach it as an opportunity to get better. We had to change some things offensively without Wendell. Gavin really stepped up and responded to the challenge. He is going to be a great player for us.
“Now, other teams see this type of game from him and we will see what kind of adjustments he can make. We are asking a lot of him as a freshman.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 25 of 52 shots from the field (48.1 percent), 4 of 15 shots from 3-point range (26.7 percent) and 25 of 36 shots from the foul line (69.4 percent). The Bears hit 27 of 68 shots from the field (39.7 percent), 10 of 35 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 8 of 11 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent).
MSU held a 43-29 rebounding advantage. For the Bulldogs, it was their second largest rebounding effort of the season. The Bulldogs had 13 assists and 21 turnovers, while the Bears had 10 assists and 17 turnovers.
Robert Crawford led UCA with 26 points. Jarvis Garner and Jordan Harks added 11 points apiece for the Bears.
MSU now breaks for the Christmas holiday. The Bulldogs will be back in the Humphrey Coliseum for a 3 p.m. start against Alabama A&M on Dec. 30. That contest will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.