- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Gavin Ware notched his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead Mississippi State over Texas Southern 86-73 on Wednesday. 

The win was the fourth straight for the Bulldogs (4-3) while Texas Southern fell to 1-6. 

Travis Daniels added a season-high 18 points for Mississippi State while Craig Sword scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half. I.J. Ready had 11 points for the Bulldogs. 

Derrick Griffin led Texas Southern with 19 points while Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley had 15 points apiece. Jerron Martin finished with 10 points. 

“We have a lot of things to get better on,” said Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland. “But I was proud of the toughness we showed and proud we got the win. We played against a well-coached basketball team and they had two players that just joined the team lately. Derrick Griffin is one and he is on scholarship in football and had only practiced basketball twice before tonight. 

“So those guys add to their same team last year, the same team that beat Michigan State at Michigan State last year and won at Kansas State last year.”

Mississippi State shot 52.2 percent and made nine three-pointers to overcome a 41-29 deficit on the backboards. Texas Southern shot 45.9 percent for the game but made just 11 of 21 free throw attempts. Mississippi State forced 14 turnovers and the Bulldogs were also 7 of 7 at the free throw line.

The first half featured four ties and was back and forth in the opening ten minutes. The Tigers took their biggest lead at 17-12 following a putback by Griffin with 13:11 left in the first half. Mississippi State responded on an 11-4 run and took the lead at 23-21 following a Fred Thomas three-pointer. 

The Bulldogs remained hot on the perimeter the remainder of the first half and took their largest lead of the first half at 42-34 following a Daniels’ three-pointer. Behind a 7-of-14 showing on three-point attempts, Mississippi State led 45-37 at halftime. 

“I thought our team was very good offensively in the first half,” added Howland. “The thing I loved is we really shared the basketball. It was probably our best half, offensively, of basketball this season.”

Sword scored seven straight points for the Bulldogs early in the second half, helping Mississippi State grab its largest lead of the night at 54-39 with 16:52 left in the game. The Bulldogs maintained their double-digit lead until a Jose Rodriquez three-pointer cut Mississippi State’s lead to 65-58 with 9:17 left in the game. 

Sword was 7 of 12 from the field and also had a career-best four blocked shots and two steals. 

“They were driving on us a lot in the first half,” said Sword. “At halftime, Coach Howland told us we were playing poor defense and being a senior leader, I had to step up. Coach also motivated me when he said their No. 23 (Griffin) was the most athletic guy on the floor. So I had to show him that wasn’t true.”

Texas Southern managed to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to 69-65 at the 6:40 mark of the second half. But Mississippi State responded with a 9-2 run and Texas Southern never got within double digits the rest of the way.

TIP INS

Mississippi State: Bulldog guard Quinndary Weatherspoon is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week after averaging 16.5 points in two games last week. Wednesday was Weatherspoon’s first career start. With 1,176 career points, Craig Sword moved into 25th all-time in Mississippi State history. 

Texas Southern: The Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons after claiming the SWAC Conference tournament under coach Mike Davis, the former UAB and Indiana head coach.  It was Derrick Griffin’s first game of the season and he also plays football for Texas Southern.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State travels to Missouri-Kansas City on Saturday.

Texas Southern travels to Stephen F. Austin on Saturday.

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