It wasn't what Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray wanted, but at least it was a win.
Mississippi State held off William Carey 80-74 Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum in an exhibition game.
"One thing that's hard to say in that situation is William Carey did a whole bunch of defenses and they switched from 1-3-1, 2-3 to a man," Ray said. "Our guys weren't prepared to be good at all three of those things offensively, so our guys were out of sync offensively. We never got into a rhythm. You got to give William Carey credit because they keep changing defenses. Our guys are looking to the bench every single time."
The Bulldogs were led by Jalen Steele's 17 points. Wendell Lewis, Fred Thomas and Colin Borchert each had 15 points.
MSU gave up 36 points in the paint, was outscored 15-12 on second chance points and only had two fast break points to the Crusaders 10 points.
"Defensively is what I'm most concerned about," Ray said. "I don't think we were the most aggressive team (Sunday). I felt it was a situation where we were on our heels a bit. I'm most disappointed in the 100-0 balls, everybody calls them 50-50 balls or loose balls but I call them 100-0 balls because we should get them 100 percent of the time. So those balls and those above the rim that turned into offensive rebounds, we can't give up offensive rebounds to a team like William Carey where we're bigger than them. That's my biggest concern."
The Bulldogs held a 76-74 lead with 48 second remaining. Four Lewis free throws helped iced the win.
"His game has changed tremendously," Steele said of Lewis. "He has accepted his role and knows he has to be more aggressive, especially at the end of the game. He is going to get fouled because he is going to be the big man getting the rebound. He has been working on his free throws day in and day out after practice."
Freshman guard Andre Applewhite did not dress out due to a knee injury. Ray said his status for the opening game is up in the air.
"He's going to have an MRI (Sunday)," Ray said. "Once you get the results back, then the people that are more classified to talk about will tell me about it, then we'll go from there."
Mississippi State opens the season Friday night at Troy with a tip of 7 p.m.