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By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State started its 100th season of basketball with a 97-63 exhibition win over Florida Tech on Saturday.
The Bulldogs seem to struggle to find an offensive rhythm early in the first half, but began to loosen up as the game moved closer to halftime.
"I thought we started off real tight and had some nerves about us," said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. "In the second half, we loosened up, and wore them down defensively. We got more stops, got out in transition, got some easier baskets and got the offensive boards."
Getting stops and offensive boards played a huge role in the Bulldogs win. Florida Tech's Julius Reid kept the Panthers in the game in the first half by scoring 16 of their 33 first half points. In the second half, the Bulldogs were able to hold Reid to only four points which helped them extend the lead.
The offensive boards and rebounding overall played a huge role in State's win has they grabbed 54 total boards. Renardo Sidney, Arnett Moultrie and Wendell Lewis pulled down a total of 15 offensive rebounds and all three had double-doubles as well.Â
"That's a bunch of offensive rebounds," said Stansbury. "I remember seeing those cats all over the boards."
Winning the rebound battle was huge for the Bulldogs and Moultrie, who had 11 rebounds, feels that's important to the team's success.
"That's where games are won," said Moultrie. "We tried our best to control the paint and get rebounds."
All the rebounds helped State score points in transition, but the most impressive and possibly surprising scoring performance came from senior guard Brian Bryant.
Bryant led the team with 21 points and made three 3-pointers during a second half run. He says he was comfortable but he seemed a little surprised by his long range shots.
"I normally don't shoot 3's," said Bryant. "I just try to get to the mid range, but it was just one of those night's where it was going right for me. I know it's not going to be like that every night, so I just have to play according to how the game comes to you."
Freshman Rodney Hood started Saturday's exhibition and played more minutes than any other MSU player with 29 minutes played and Stansbury said the reason for that was simply to get Hood playing time and experience.
The Bulldogs had five players score in double digits on Saturday and the team seemed to be clicking, but Moultrie feels there is one thing they have to keep working on and he's doing whatever he can to work on it.
"We always have to work on chemistry," said Moultrie. "We don't want any problems within the team so I just try to make sure I tell everybody good job."
The chemistry is something that team captain Dee Bost is putting much focus on but is positive about it.
"I think everybody will gel together eventually," said Bost. "We keep playing together and playing hard everything will work out."
The exhibition gave Stansbury a chance to see his team go against an opponent and he noticed some changes from last season immediately.
"It's very obvious that we've got a long way to go, but it's good to finish up the way we finished," said Stansbury. "We can dribble it, we can pass it much better than we've had the past couple of years and when you can do that, you can manufacture baskets different ways. We played in motion and guys made basketball plays a lot."
The exhibition doesn't count towards MSU's record this season, but it helps the coaches and team gauge where they are and figure out what they need to work on. Even though the game doesn't count, Stansbury seemed pleased with what he saw on Saturday.
"It's a good start," said Stansbury. "(Florida Tech) is a good team and that coach does a good job with them and they'll have a good season, but we just have to keep getting better. That's the key, because I like our pieces and ability to make some basketball plays."
The Bulldogs will play another exhibition game on Friday when they host Pikeville at 7 p.m.