JACKSON, Miss. — Freshman center Gavin Ware powered the Mississippi State Bulldogs to a 79-72 victory over the University of Central Arkansas Bears on Saturday afternoon at Mississippi Coliseum.
Ware, a 6-foot-9, 270-pounder from Starkville, Miss., led the Bulldogs’ inside-out attack, finishing with 22 points and 13 rebounds. The Bears, meanwhile, operating primarily from the outside, made only 10 of 35 from 3-point range. UCA shot just 39.7 percent overall and was outrebounded 43-29.
"We started off real sluggish, offensively and defensively," said UCA coach Corliss Williamson. "We tried to pick up the tempo, but our traps weren’t good, our rotations weren’t great. And that got us in a hole, down nine points at halftime.
"You can’t do that on the road, especially against an SEC school. I don’t care if they had just four players on their team, they are a seasoned bunch and they play in one of the best, if not the best, conferences, in the nation."
The Bulldogs, who were missing four players to injury, shot 56 percent from the field in the second half and 48.1 percent overall. MSU (4-6) played just seven players, but five of those scored in double figures. Trivante Bloodman had 12 points, while Colin Borchert added 11 and Tyson Cunningham and Craig Sword added 10 each.
The Bears (4-5) got 26 points from senior guard Robert Crawford, who was the only UCA player with any success from the perimeter. He made 7 of 14 from beyond the arc and added a team-high 8 rebounds. The rest of the Bears were a combined 3 for 21 on threes.
"Rob really knocked down a lot of shots for us," Williamson said. "And I still didn’t think we found him enough. There were some opportunities where we had guys shooting 3’s on their own rather than looking for the hot man at the time. We were 10 of 35 and that’s too many 3’s."
The Bears fell behind early and trailed 34-25 at halftime. The Bulldogs could never pull away from the Bears in the second half, but the Bears could never get closer than seven points either. A late 3-pointer from senior Jarvis Garner set the final.
Garner and Jordan Harks had 11 points and 4 rebounds each for the Bears, who are off until an afternoon game against Central Baptist College on Dec. 31.Senior center Anthony Borden saw his first action of the season after missing the first semester because of academic issues. He had a dunk in his first minute of action and finished with six points and two rebounds.
The Bulldogs shot 36 free throws (making 25) to UCA’s 11. Three different players shot eight free throws for MSU.