Mississippi State beats Florida Gulf Coast 66-53

DAVID BRANDT (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Craig Sword scored 17 points, I.J. Ready added 12 and Mississippi State beat Florida Gulf Coast 66-53 on Thursday night.

Mississippi State (8-2) has won three straight. The Bulldogs received plenty of help from their bench - with 10 points each from Fred Thomas and Roquez Johnson - outscoring Florida Gulf Coast's reserves 25-4.

FGCU (5-6) has lost five of its last six games. Brett Comer led the Eagles with 15 points while Chase Fieler added 11. The Eagles shot just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.

The 53 points were Florida Gulf Coast's fewest of the season. The Eagles had 21 turnovers and trailed for good after Mississippi State's Thomas hit a 3-pointer to make it 10-8 with 14:41 left in the first half.

Sword continued his terrific and efficient December, shooting 6 of 8 from the field against the Eagles. The 6-foot-3 sophomore is averaging 20.6 points over his last five games and has made 35 of 49 shots (71.4 percent) from the field over the same span.

Sword's only issue on Thursday night was at the free-throw line, where he made just 5 of 11 attempts.

But that's a small complaint for a guy that's been the catalyst for just about everything the Bulldogs have done this season. He's also arguably the team's best defender, and added a pair of steals against the Eagles.

Gavin Ware also added 10 points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs, who out-rebounded Florida Gulf Coast 33-30.

Florida Gulf Coast earned the nickname Dunk City last year thanks to its high-flying offense during a run to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.

But the Eagles couldn't do much running and had zero dunks against the Bulldogs, who made an obvious effort to get back on defense and squash any fast-break attempts.

Florida Gulf Coast kept it close for much of the night, pulling within 49-41 on Bernard Thompson's 3-pointer with 8:58 remaining, but couldn't overcome the constant turnovers and missed opportunities.


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