Mississippi St tops Utah St 71-63

Mississippi State forward Roquez Johnson (25) shoots over Utah State guard Jalen Moore (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Roquez Johnson and Fred Thomas both scored 15 points to lead Mississippi State over Utah State 71-63 on Saturday.

Mississippi State (3-0) has won its first three games for the second year in a row. The Bulldogs trailed 58-57 with six minutes remaining but scored the next eight points to take control.

Gavin Ware added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. Mississippi State dominated inside, with a 38-21 rebounding advantage and a 30-18 edge in points inside the paint.

Utah State (3-1) was led by Darius Perkins and Chris Smith, who each scored 14 points. Jalen Moore added 13.

It was a tight game that featured 18 lead changes and nine ties before Mississippi State pulled away with a few minutes remaining.

Utah State jumped out to a 38-34 halftime lead by shooting 7 of 14 (50 percent) from 3-point range. Perkins made four of them for 12 points to lead all scorers at the break. Thomas and Johnson both had 10 for Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs closed the gap quickly early in the second half, with Thomas making a 3-pointer from the corner for a 42-41 lead.

Mississippi State played better defense in the second half, especially on the perimeter. When the Aggies stopped getting open looks from behind the arc, they struggled to score.

Mississippi State was able to exploit Utah State’s lack of size the entire game. The Bulldogs had 15 offensive rebounds and scored 14 points on second-chance opportunities.

Utah State freshman forward David Collette, who was leading the team with 16 points per game, managed just six points on 3-of-5 shooting. He played just 24 minutes because of constant foul trouble.

Collette made a short jumper to give Utah State a 58-57 lead with 6:01 remaining, but Mississippi State scored the next eight points, holding the Aggies scoreless for more than four minutes.

TIP-INS

Utah State: Utah State shot just 3 of 13 from 3-point range in the second half.

Mississippi State: Craig Sword, who led the Bulldogs in scoring last season, hasn’t played yet this year after having surgery on his back in October. Coach Rick Ray hopes Sword will be back in the next couple weeks.

UP NEXT

Utah State plays at UC Davis on Wednesday.

Mississippi State hosts Clayton State on Monday.

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Posted in USU