MSU men's hoops improves to 4-0, remains undefeated

Junior forward D.J. Jeffries slices through traffic in transition against Morehead State.

On Sunday, the MSU men's basketball team hosted Morehead State for a matchup on the hardwood. The Bulldogs came into the second half firing on all cylinders and fought to put away Morehead State after a tightly contested first half with a 66-46 victory, improving their overall record to 4-0. 

The first half of basketball for the Bulldogs wasn't pretty, but their rebounding and tough shot-making ability kept them in the game. MSU controlled the boards with 24 rebounds in the first half, which allowed them to get second chance shots and get quick buckets in transition. Iverson Molinar, the junior from Panama City, Panama, was one of the offensive bright spots for the Bulldogs in the first half. Molinar chipped in 10 points and four rebounds while shooting 5-8 from the field. MSU needed his offense to keep up with Morehead State, whose scrappy defense bothered the Bulldogs throughout the first half. 

Morehead State shot 6-13 from 3-point land and tallied five steals and five blocks. Morehead State was leading 26-28 towards the end of the first half, but a 3-point shot by Shakeel Moore, the sophomore from Greensborough, North Carolina, gave the Bulldogs a 1-point lead heading into the second half. Moore secured the first bucket for MSU in the second half, which ignited the offense for the Bulldogs, who would go on to outscore Morehead State in the second half 37-18. Garrison Brooks, the graduate from LaFayette, Alabama, played a big part of the Bulldog victory. The forward finished with 11 points and six rebounds. D.J. Jeffries, the junior from Olive Branch, Mississippi, also helped propel the Bulldogs to victory by chipping in a double-double with 13 points, two assists and 10 rebounds. Molinar finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Moore finished with 13 points, five steals and hit 3-6 from deep. Molinar said he and the team knew they had to play better defensively in the second half and with more urgency.

"The first half we struggled a little bit picking up the intensity on defense," Molinar said, "and we made sure in the second half that we did that. We also came and played out together. We were a little bit more patient on offense and we were playing for each other." 

Whatever was said to the players at halftime worked, and the Bulldogs improved their play all around. The Bulldogs came out of halftime and played a much better half of basketball, improving their shooting percentage from 39.4% from the field in the first half to 60.7% in the second half.

The Bulldogs also improved their percentage from deep as well, shooting 33.3% in the first half, and 50% in the second half. Head coach Ben Howland said he was excited about how his team played in the second half of the game.

"I'm excited about the second half," Howland said, "It was really a tale of two halves. In the first half, at the beginning of the game, I thought we came out very uncharacteristically jacking up shots and playing way too fast offensively. We have to be more understanding of good shots and bad shots and I thought we did that (in the second half)."

Overall, coach Howland said he was excited about the win over Morehead State, a team that he thinks is the best in their conference.

"We knew they (Morehead State's players) were good," Howland said. "They returned to a NCAA team, they've added some really good pieces, and I think they'll be in the tournament out of their league. I'll actually be surprised if they don't win their league. They are also very well coached" 

The next game for the Bulldogs will be on Thursday in Nassau, Bahamas, where the Bulldogs will face Louisville in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship. 

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