STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI (TICKER)—Timmy Bowers scored 19 points and Winsome Frazier added a career-high 14 off the bench to lead No. 23 Mississippi State past McNeese State, 81-65, in a rematch of last season’s NCAA Tournament game.
Mississippi State (1-1) once again played without leading returning scorer Mario Austin, whose eligibility is being questioned by the NCAA. Austin is being held out.
Coming off a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, the Bulldogs started slowly, but Ontario Harper’s 3-pointer with 5:35 left in the first half ignited an 11-0 run that put them on top for good.
Harper scored seven of Mississippi State’s last nine points in the first half and finished with 11. Derrick Zimmerman and Michael Ignerski added 12 apiece for the Bulldogs.
“We faced some pretty good competition tonight,” Harper said. “We just have to try and stay together and step it up a little bit. It feels good to come back and get a victory.”
Greg Tucker scored 17 points for the Cowboys (1-1), who fell to Mississippi State in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament by a 70-58 margin.
“We just tried to put (Saturday) behind us,” Frazier said. “We played a good team today. We just tried to come out and be aggressive and put them away.”
The Bulldogs shot just 40 percent (12-of-30) in the opening half but found their shooting touch in the second, hitting 54 percent (20-of-37) from the field.
They also forced 25 turnovers while committing just 13.
“I don’t think it was pretty at all times, but I thought the key to our game was our effort level,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “We created a lot of energy on the defensive end that led to some offensive baskets.”
“Especially in the first half, we exhibited purpose, but we lacked precision,” McNeese State coach Tic Price said. “I think we lacked precision because of their defense. They did a great job of crowding us on the wings.”
Mississippi State came out of halftime with some strong shooting. A jumper and a dunk by Ignerski followed by a tip-in and free throw by Lincoln Smith gave the Bulldogs a 43-29 advantage.
McNeese State halved the deficit with 12:10 to go on a follow shot by Tom Miley that made it 43-36, but the Bulldogs reeled off the next 10 points. They took their biggest lead with 3:45 remaining when Ignerski’s jumper made it 72-52.
Ignerski did all his scoring in the second half.
“I made a mistake, I tried to make some jump shots at the beginning of the game,” Ignerski said. I missed threes, jump shots and layups. I knew I’d have to start at the beginning in the second half and get myself back into the game.”
Eldridge Lewis netted 10 points and Damond Williams nine for the Cowboys, who had only six assists.