STARKVILLE, Miss. – After the ULM men’s basketball team battled back from an early deficit to close within a point, Mississippi State used a 15-5 run to end the first half and maintained the lead in the second half, defeating the Warhawks 62-45 Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
“First of all, let’s give a lot of credit to Mississippi State,” ULM head coach Keith Richard said. “They really defended us. They’re big and strong, great size. It’s hard getting by them off the dribble. It’s hard doing a lot of things on offense, except throwing the ball inside a little bit. As we worked our way through the game, it’s kind of the only thing that we could really do to get inside.”
The Warhawks started slowly, with MSU scoring nine of the first 11 points. A fast break dunk by Reggie Perry caused Richard to take an early timeout with 16:08 left in the first half.
ULM would wake from its early slumber. JD Williams drained a 3-pointer from the wing and Michael Ertel followed with a mid-range jumper to bring the Warhawks within two at 9-7. After back-to-back buckets by MSU, Williams picked up a layup off a bounce pass feed from Elijah Ifejeh, and Tyree White found Ifejeh open inside for a dunk to get back within two at 13-11 with 10:25 left in the half.
The Warhawks would get within a point on a layup by Ifejeh off another assist from White at 14-13. However, the Bulldogs would answer with an 8-0 run to push the lead back to 21-13. ULM would get back on the board with a pair of 3-pointers, one from Ertel and another from Williams, but then the Warhawks went cold for the remainder of the half. Mississippi State went on a 15-5 run to close the half, with all five ULM points coming from Chris Efretuei, to extend the lead to 39-24 at halftime.
“Chris Efretuei did a nice job scoring some buckets in there and getting fouled,” Richard said. “I thought Elijah did a good job playing off him sometimes. All in all, it was difficult all night on the offensive end.”
Early in the second half, Williams buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Ertel finished a baseline drive with a finger roll at the rim, but Mississippi State maintained pace, leading 44-29 with 15:35 remaining.
The Warhawks eventually worked the deficit under double digits. ULM held Mississippi State scoreless for just over four minutes, going on an 8-0 run in that span. Williams capped the run with a 3-pointer to cut the gap to 46-37. However, the Bulldog defense stepped up and shut down the Warhawks over the next three minutes, answering back with six straight points to build the lead back to 15 at 52-37 with 8:48 to play.
Offense was at a premium down the stretch. ULM managed just eight points over the final 11:13 of the game. Mississippi State also struggled down the stretch, putting up 10 points to expand the lead out to as much as 21 before winning 62-45.
“We hold an SEC team to 62 points, 40% from the field, 25 from the 3-point line, that’s not bad,” Richard said. “I thought we did a pretty good job defensively. We gave up a bunch of offensive rebounds in the first half, but at halftime we were able to tell our players what was happening, why they were getting those offensive rebounds. We corrected it in the second half. We continue to make strides on that end.”
Williams led the Warhawks with 14 points, while Ertel and Efretuei tallied 10 each. ULM shot 18-of-51 from the field (35.3%), 5-of-16 (31.3%) from 3-point range and 4-of-12 (33.3%) from the free throw line. ULM had 32 rebounds, led by eight from Williams. The Warhawks had nine assists to 17 turnovers.
Mississippi State was led by a 14 point and 14 rebound double double from Perry. Robert Woodard II scored 13 points, while Iverson Molinar and D.J. Stewart tallied 10 points each. The Bulldogs shot 20-of-49 (40.8%), 3-of-12 from 3 (25.0%) and 19-of-30 at the free throw line. The Bulldogs had 41 rebounds, 11 assists and 14 turnovers.
ULM is off until Nov. 26 when the Warhawks host Northwestern State at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.