Florida Atlantic vs Mississippi State

Mississippi St. 78, FAU 58

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - With 10:40 left in the first half on Tuesday night, Mississippi State's Jalen Steele took a nasty fall and left the arena en route to the hospital.

Steele, the leading returning scorer from last year's squad, left his team with only a 2-point lead over Florida Atlantic and a roster of mostly newcomers.

But Steele's injury sparked a Bulldog rally that would eventually lead Mississippi State to a 78-58 victory behind a combined 33 points by Roquez Johnson and Fred Thomas.

"When he went down, we all said we're going to do it for Jalen," Thomas said. "We picked up the intensity and played harder."

Mississippi State (1-1) went on to lead 43-26 at the half and the issue was never again in doubt.

"The guys knew they'd have to come together and make a run," Ray said. "I think that's good for our guys to know they had that in them. "

The Bulldogs forced 27 turnovers and shot 49.2 percent (30 of 61) from the field to give Rick Ray his first victory as head coach.

"It's good to win, whether it's the first one or the last one," Ray said. "I just like to win."

Steele received eight stitches in his head, and his status for next week's trip to the Maui Invitational is unknown.

FAU (0-3) shot 33.3 percent from the field (21 of 63) and trailed almost the entire game. Mississippi State has held both its opponents so far this season to under 37-percent shooting.

"We want to be a team that forces turnovers and that's hard to play against," Ray said. "The key to us being better offensively is to create more things defensively. "

Johnson scored a career-high 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and had 5 rebounds.

"I'm a high intensity guy," Johnson said. "I want to help the team and get everybody moving."

Thomas scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and had 5 steals. Craig Sword added 11 points and Gavin Ware chipped in 10 points.

Thomas scored only 4 points in Mississippi State's season-opener last week at Troy.

"Against Troy I was pretty much off," Thomas said. "I got back in the gym the next day. I had to get some shots up. That carried over to tonight."

FAU guard Greg Gantt led the Owls with 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Cavon Baker added 11 points.

Mississippi State opened the game on an 8-2 run and forced 18 turnovers in the opening half. Using a motion-based offense, the Bulldogs led 43-26 at the break and went on an 18-3 run in the second half to seal the win.

"Everybody knows when coach calls motion, we're doing motion," Ware said. "Motion, more motion, nothing but motion."

Already starting the season shorthanded due to roster attrition from last year's Rick Stansbury-led squad, Mississippi State played its entire roster in the game after Steele went down. Only two players didn't hit double-digit minutes.

Mississippi State has now won three straight home openers.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
Scoreboard
Florida Atlantic (0-2)263258
Mississippi State (1-1) «433578

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Florida Atlantic Owls
J. McCoy, F221-43-46005
D. Sekelja, C341-70-09243
G. Gantt, G346-163-341117
S. Moody, G203-70-01137
P. Bertone, G182-82-34217
J. Trapp302-50-06144
C. Baker124-72-512111
C. Bryant100-50-02120
A. Mattison71-10-02002
K. Penn60-00-01040
D. Thornton61-30-01002
R. Morrow10-00-00000
Totals 21-6310-1542102058
 33.3%66.7% 
Mississippi State Bulldogs
C. Borchert, F231-40-04223
W. Lewis, C224-60-04328
F. Thomas, G306-121-141216
T. Bloodman, G282-75-65729
J. Steele, G81-30-00002
R. Johnson237-113-1050217
T. Cunningham211-20-04322
C. Sword214-83-740311
G. Ware184-82-450110
B. Price60-00-00000
Totals 30-6114-2840161678
 49.2%50% 
Conference USA
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Middle Tenn.17-131-535
La. Tech14-423-10117
Old Dominion12-619-12136
UTEP12-615-17222
Rice11-723-12168
Marshall10-820-15112
UAB9-917-16198
Western Ky.9-915-17226
UT-San Antonio8-1014-19264
Charlotte7-1113-17243
FAU6-1210-20282
So. Miss6-129-22331
FIU3-157-24337
North Texas2-168-22339

Southeastern
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Kentucky16-232-64
Florida14-427-910
Arkansas12-626-1028
S. Carolina12-626-1143
Ole Miss10-822-1477
Alabama10-819-1578
Vanderbilt10-819-1638
Georgia9-919-1552
Texas A&M8-1016-1593
Tennessee8-1016-1682
Auburn7-1118-14113
Miss. State6-1216-16149
LSU2-1610-21194
Missouri2-168-24255
 
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MVSU 60 Final
CINCY 102
UVM 49 Final
UCONN 67
MIST 67 Final
KAN 64
AST 54 Final
MIZZ 91
CLST 47 Final
MICH 77
DUKE 75 Final
UK 68
SDCC 57 Final
SDSU 91
UCIRV 79 Final
UCLA 80