STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – On Thanksgiving day, many people will sit down for a helping of turkey.
On Thanksgiving eve, the Mississippi State men’s basketball team served Jackson State a hearty plate of chicken.
Craig “Chicken” Sword scored 12 second-half points and each of them proved critical as Mississippi State knocked off in-state rival Jackson State 58-56 during a Wednesday afternoon matinee at Humphrey Coliseum.
“We didn’t approach the game like we were supposed to,” said Sword, a sophomore guard. “We came out playing soft. We were shooting too many 3.s I felt like I had to take over in the second half, since I missed so much of the first half with foul trouble.”
“(In the second half), our plan was to attack the rim and to come out and play hard.”
Entering the contest fresh off a win over Tennessee-Martin, Jackson State (2-5) scored the game’s first seven points and led 28-23 at halftime. In the opening half, the Bulldogs shot a season-low 28 percent from the field. Jackson State also held a plus-five rebounding advantage at halftime.
In the second half, MSU moved the ball inside more and only took one three-point shot attempt, compared to 12 in the first half.
“We had to come out in the second half and fight,” MSU senior forward Colin Borchert said. “We had to compete. Jackson State came in here and was pushing around us and we are an SEC team. We had to battle more on the boards, buckle down and make layups.”
Ray said the Bulldogs were fortunate to be back at home after seeing its season-opening three-game winning streak snapped at Utah State Saturday night. MSU maintained its perfect record in the series against Jackson State.
“It would have been a bad Thanksgiving going into it with a loss,” Ray said. “Jackson State has had to go out and compete at several places this year. They did a really good job of packing it in. I told the guys at halftime if you shoot a 3, you are coming out of the game.
“When we attacked the rim, it made a big difference.”
The Bulldogs only held two leads in the first half. In the second half, MSU gained more focus but still had trouble gaining complete control of the contest.
A dunk by Roquez Johnson gave MSU a 35-34 lead with 15:00 left in the contest. MSU eventually scored eight straight points to build a 39-34 lead on a jumper by Trivante Bloodman.
Jackson State rallied and grabbed a 44-42 lead on a layup by Julysses Nobles with 9:32 left.
MSU battled back for a 51-51 tie on a Sword tip-in with 5:31 left.
The Bulldogs took the lead for good at 57-55 on a Sword jumper with 1:21 left.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 20 of 46 shots from the field (43.5 percent), 4 of 13 shots from 3-point range (30.8 percent) and 14 of 19 shots from the foul line(73.7 percent).The Tigers hit 20 of 54 shots from the field (37.0 percent), 1 of 10 shots from 3-point range (10.0 percent) and 15 of 19 shots from the foul line (78.9 percent).
MSU (4-1) held a 33-32 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had six assists and 19 turnovers, while the Tigers had five assists and 15 turnovers.
Playing only 26 minutes dye to foul trouble, Sword led MSU with his 12 points. Fred Thomas added 11 points. Gavin Ware had a team-high seven rebounds but was held to a season-low four points from the field.
Jackson State (2-5) was led by Nobles with 22 points. Brandon West posted the game’s only double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
MSU will host Loyola at noon Sunday.