STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — After going 0-3 at the Maui Invitational last week, Mississippi State returned home Tuesday night with a 60-42 victory over Alcorn State and a team that feels more united.
"That brought us closer together," center Gavin Ware said. "We had trials and tribulations, but we were also relaxed on the beach and got a chance to bond. We decided to only bring the positives back from Maui."
Craig Sword and Fred Thomas scored 14 points each to lead Mississippi State (2-4) over Alcorn State (2-5). Ware had 12 rebounds and seven points in his first career start, and Roquez Johnson added 13 points.
"We've been really easy for teams to run their offense against," Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. "Tonight, I thought they did a good job contesting and disrupting their offense."
Mississippi State shot 40 percent from the field (18 of 45) and hit 22 of 33 free throws, overpowering the Braves in the paint.
"I learned another thing about my team," Alcorn State coach Luther Riley said. "We're not as tough as we need to be. For whatever reason, we played timid and nervous. We took shots early in the shot clock and then didn't rebound."
Alcorn State struggled to hit 15 of 51 shots from the field (29.4 percent).
"When you hold a team to that low of a percentage defensively you've going to have some opportunities," Ray said.
The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Braves 50-20.
"That's the answer," Riley said. "Rebounds."
Sword finished 4 of 8 from the field and hit 5 of 9 free throws to go with five steals.
"He can do some things as far as getting to the rim and creating opportunities for himself and for others," Ray said. "He's doing better about not gambling on defense, too. When he gambles, we sometimes end up playing four-on-five."
Thomas was 0 of 4 from 3-point range, but finished 5 of 12 from the field.
"Coach talks about being patient and letting shots come to you," Thomas said. "I think that's what happened tonight."
As a team, Mississippi State was 2 of 13 from beyond the arc.
Anthony Evans led Alcorn State with 12 points and LeAntwan Luckett added 11 points.
Mississippi State opened the game on a 13-2 run and led 37-21 at halftime. The Bulldogs dominated the second half and trailed only once on the opening bucket of the game.