The Mississippi State University Men’s Basketball Team had their first home game Tuesday night against the Conference USA team, Florida International University.
To close the first half of the game, the Bulldogs were leading 40-30 after a hard-fought back and forth half. They fought another hard fight, more defensively, to finish out the game and earn a 77-69 win.
The Bulldogs seemed to come out with a slow start to the game. The first half was back and forth with the Panthers in the lead for the majority of the half. Iverson Molinar, a freshman from Panama City, Panama, scored the first Bulldog basket of the night. By the second timeout of the night, the Bulldogs were trailing the Panthers 16-18.
MSU closed in on FIU after this timeout until eventually gaining the lead by a score of 26-25 with five minutes left in the half. MSU held FIU with a strong defense for the remainder of the half to finish out on top. The Dawgs started getting out-rebounded by the Panthers but came back to have the most at the end of the first half.
"When we calmed down the pace," Molinar said. "When we followed coach's instructions, I think after that we got past it."
MSU’s Tyson Carter, a senior guard from Starkville, was the highest scorer of the half with 15 points in the first half. He ended the half by scoring as the time ran as the Bulldogs went into the locker room up 40-30. Carter played 34 minutes of the game playing as a point guard and was filling in for Nick Weatherspoon, who is out for a few games.
“Tyson was very stable,” head coach Ben Howland said after the game. “We are asking Tyson [Carter] to do so much. Without Nick [Weatherspoon] out there, he is our one experienced guard.”
The second half, like the first, was back and forth. FIU outscored the bulldogs in the second half, but not enough to close in the 10 point gap they started within the half. FIU's head coach Jeremy Ballard said his team came to win the game, not keep it close.
"We knew it was going to be an extremely difficult task, and it was," Ballard said. "We didn't come up short from a lack off effort or from a lack of trying to execute what our game-plan was about."
In the last minute of the game, both FIU and MSU scored two baskets, with MSU’s No. 3, DJ Stewart, finishing out the game for the Bulldogs as MSU beat the Panthers 77-69.
The second half seemed to have some MSU players waking up and others slowing down. Both Molinar and Reggie Perry, a sophomore forward from Thomasville, Georgia, scored the majority of their shots in the second half. There were more MSU turnovers in the second half than the first, which Howland said could have been due to players being tired.
The bulldogs face Sam Houston State University on Friday night, who Howland said is better than FIU, with the same small-ball game that FIU has. Looking to that game, Howland said he will be light on the guys in practice leading up to that game because so many key players were on the court for an enormous amount of minutes in this game.
“There is no easy breaks for us," Howland said. "We are going to have to bounce back and really get ready to go."