STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Bearkats could not hold off a second-half surge by Mississippi State to fall 67-58 on the road Friday at Humphrey Coliseum.
Sam Houston State (1-1) opened the second half with a 16-5 run to go up 50-32. The Bulldogs (2-0) answered with a 35-8 run to close it out in large part to their ability to get to the free-throw line.
Mississippi State hit 11 of 17 free throws in the second period and was 16 of 24 for the game. The Bearkats, in the meantime, only went to the line four times but hit all four attempts.
The Bulldogs had four players shoot more free throws than SHSU did as a team.
The Bearkats made one more field goal than Mississippi State (24 to 23) and one more 3-pointer (six to five).
Sophomore Zach Nutall led Sam Houston State with 16 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He helped the Bearkats jump out to a 23-15 lead with 5:36 to go in the first half with a pair of baskets off back-to-back steals.
Sam Houston State’s aggressive defense fed its offense for most of the game until Mississippi State’s rally. The Bearkats had 12 steals in the game, eight coming in the first half, and scored 24 points off of 23 Bulldog turnovers.
Tyson Carter led Mississippi State with 28 points, 19 coming in the first half. DJ Stewart had 15 points, and Reggie Perry and Robert Woodard each scored 10.
Sam Houston State took care of the ball for the most part, finishing with just 11 turnovers. Mississippi State took advantage of those, however, with 15 points off turnovers.
The Bearkats have a break before hitting the road again to visit Central Michigan on Nov. 16.
Mississippi State vs. Sam Houston State – Friday, November 8, 2019
Sam Houston State Head Coach Jason Hooten
JH: “I thought that with 14 minutes left in the game we had it exactly where we wanted it, and the last 14 minutes of the game we played like we have one returning starter. I do think we have the chance to have a good team, but we have a long way to go.
“Coach (Ben) Howland does a great job. He’s taken four different teams to the NCAA Tournament and been to three Final Fours. I thought his team stayed very poised late and made a couple of big three’s there when they needed it.”
“We got a little tight. We didn’t score for the last three (minutes) of the half. As far as field goals are concerned, I think Kai (Mitchell) made two free throws. Overall, we gave one away. We had the game right where we wanted it. We didn’t come in and close it. I told the boys in the locker room that this will be a team that we will both be right there in the end in March. This has got to be a game that you learn a lot from.”
Q: How disappointing is it to have a power five team when you’re up but let it slip away in the end?
JH: “It’s real disappointing. I’ve been a head coach, this is my 10th year. We haven’t been fortunate enough to beat one yet. We’ve been right there, we lost to (Texas) A&M on the buzzer and to UNLV. It was hard.”
“I thought the crowd got very energetic very late and really helped them (Mississippi State). I thought for 30 or so minutes the whistle was good, but the whistle just blew a lot late. That’s part of it too, which I also told them was going to happen. That’s what it’s about. It’s what makes us better and just learn to play these games. Overall, I’m extremely disappointed.”
Q: What’s it like as an opposing coach when the fans start coming into it late?
JH: “No disrespect, but we’ve played a lot of places that are a lot louder than this. Oklahoma State is pretty loud, Arizona’s pretty loud and Indiana was pretty loud when they were number one in the country, so it’s just part of it.”
“I’ve got to do a better job of helping our guys. I think with a new team we don’t have a lot in. We’ve really concentrated on defense a lot. Besides their offense rebounding in the second half, I would guess we guarded them as good as they’ve been guarded. It’s hard. They’re so big, and they’re so long. When they shoot, their best offense to me right now is that they go get it. So, we’ve been in places, and we’ve been in that environment. But again, we’ve got four new starters, and we played like it at times tonight. We’ll get better, and we’ll be better for this for sure.”