STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – A spirited second-half rally fell a tad short for Mississippi State in its first action of the 2017-18 season.
In an exhibition contest held to raise relief funds for victims of Hurricane Irma, MSU nearly erased a 23-point second-half deficit before falling to Nebraska 76-72 at Humphrey Coliseum.
“That was a good opportunity for us to play a Power-5 opponent,” MSU coach Ben Howland said. “I can’t thank the University of Nebraska for coming down here and giving us a chance to play this game. Our guys now see that we have a lot of things to work on to be the team we want to be.
“We have had 15 days of practice. It’s all about effort. In the first half, we were too stretched out defensively. In the first half, we took too many fast shots. In the second half, we were much more disciplined.”
E.J. Datcher scored a team-high 12 points for the Bulldogs. Eli Wright and KeyShawn Feazell each added 10 points. Nick Weatherspoon played 19 minutes and Feazell played 15 minutes in their MSU debuts.
MSU only hit 1 of its 13 3-point attempts and missed five second-half free throws but still pulled within three points in the final minute.
After scoring the opening basket, MSU did not lead in the contest again.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Nebraska sent the Cornhuskers to a 17-11 lead. A 14-4 run later in the half helped Nebraska extend the lead to 41-24 with 3:03 left in the half.
The Bulldogs were back within 13 on two free throws by Wright and 12 after a jumper by Feazell.
Nebraska led 48-32 at halftime.
In the second half, a 9-0 run gave Nebraska 57-34 lead with 17:17 left in the contest.
The Bulldogs cut the deficit to 13 at 63-50 after two free throws by Tyson Carter and a dunk by Xavian Stapleton.
A dunk by Datcher had the Maroon and White within eight at 67-59 with 7:07 left.
The Bulldogs continued to excel defensively. A dunk by Datcher and two free throws by Nick Weatherspoon brought the Bulldogs within 73-70 with 15 seconds left.
“We had some players who were not as conditioned as they will be,” Howland said. “There were several bright spots. This will be a great opportunity for our team to grow. Our practices will be better now because they know what we need to do to become better players. We gambled too much on defensively and we missed too many shots early in the game.”
For the contest, MSU hit 28 of 64 shots from the field (43.8 percent), 1 of 13 shots from 3-point range (7.7 percent) and 15 of 24 shots from the foul line (62.5 percent). Nebraska hit 28 of 62 shots from the field (45.2 percent), 8 of 27 shots from 3-point range (29.6 percent) and 12 of 15 shots from the foul line (80.0 percent).
MSU held a 38-37 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 14 assists and 11 turnovers, while the Cornhuskers had 16 assists and 16 turnovers.
Nebraska received 17 points from James Palmer, Jr. and 11 points apiece from Jordy Tshimanga and Glynn Watson, Jr. Isaiah Roby had a team-high eight rebounds.
MSU will play host to West Florida in its second exhibition contest at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2 at Humphrey Coliseum.
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