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Post-game at Humphrey Coliseum - Mississippi State 78, Kennesaw State 55 - Bulldogs welcome back Fred Thomas with game-high 17 points in win




Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - What we learned?  


MSU coach Rick Ray couldn't wait to tell anybody that would listen that it was Thomas of all his players that has matured and improved the most over the summer. In Thomas' season debut he went about proving his coach to be correct. 


The sophomore guard energized the Mississippi State offense with a multi-dimensional skill set not seen since he arrived on campus in his 2013-14 season debut Thursday night in a 78-55 victory at Humphrey Coliseum over Kennesaw State. 


"Obviously Fred is a talent and I think all he needs to focus on is finishing at the rim better because teams are going to play him as a shooter," Ray said. "He has 15 pounds of strength and muscle added to him so he needs to continue to prove and understand that he's much more than a shooter. He can do a lot more than make shots for us and he's starting to mature in recognizing that fact." 


Thomas struggled last year shooting just 23.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc and missed his first two shots along with first three free throws. Thomas, who led all scorers with 17 points, showed his maturation process over the summer by connecting on his three next three shots in a three-minute period of the first half 


"Last year I was pretty impatient about my shooting because all I would think about is getting the ball and letting it go immediately," Thomas said. "As a sophomore I need to make sure it's a good shot and that I'm open before I take it." 




- Ready unable to leave court on own power after injury  




The story of Mississippi State's 78-55 blowout win over Kennesaw State may have been carried into the locker room with just over 5 minutes left in the game. 


MSU freshman point guard IJ Ready needed to be helped into the training room after suffering a injury with 5 minutes and 27 seconds remaining in the contest. Ready appeared to injury his leg or ankle after delivering a lead pass for a fast break dunk to junior forward Roquez Johnson to put MSU ahead 65-52. 


Ready had six assists and only one turnover in 24 minutes but MSU coach Rick Ray said he was concerned with the play of freshman point guard possibly being a little too unselfish. Ready took only two questionable three-point attempts as his only shots of the evening and gave up easy layups to kick it out beyond the three-point arc to teammates. 


"I think a lot of times nobody is stopping him on his penetration and he settles for passing the ball instead of continuing to put pressure on those big guys," Ray said. "I think sometimes IJ turns down opportunities to attack and he has to understand that he doesn't always have to attack to score but because of his good vision he turns down layups." 


Ready was immediately doubled over in pain and needed to be taken out of action immediately. After less than a minute of game action had ticked away, Ready was helped off the bench and into the locker room by a walk-on teammate and MSU trainer Scotty Johnson. 


After the victory, Ray said he didn't have a update on Ready's status and wouldn't know the exact situation until today at the earliest. 




- Not enough touches for Gavin Ware 




One of the main reasons MSU coach Rick Ray is convinced his team played a sloppy and poor first half Thursday night is his 6-foot-8 post threat didn't get enough touches at the low block. 


MSU sophomore forward Gavin Ware struggled to get inside position and only had nine points in a frustrating 23 minutes due to Kennesaw State being able to mix defenses and lengthy players at the former Starkville High star. 


"I think in a zone what happens is you try to go to open spots and that's not going to work because Gavin thinks he's open but there's bodies around him so guys don't feel good about throwing the ball into the post," Ray said. "I don't care though what the other team is in defensively and we have to get Gavin touches. He was 4 for 4 from the field tonight and I think that's 100 percent. I'm no math genius but I think that's pretty good." 


Ware, who was a All-freshman team selection in the Southeastern Conference last year, ended with 10 rebounds but had just three first half points. Ware led the team last week in the season opener with 15 points and 15 rebounds against Prairie View A&M. 




- Jacoby Davis finally makes MSU debut 




In a game where his coach didn't expect him to be able to play at all until minutes before tip, MSU redshirt freshman Jacoby Davis finally saw action at MSU (2-0) in his return from a serious knee injury. 


Davis is still trying to work through a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered before the 2012-13 season after he was recruited by Ray's staff through the St. John's Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, Wis. 


Davis checked into the game and played the final two minutes and earned a assist in garbage time of the Bulldogs blowout victory. Davis returned to practice last year in January but was cleared for games this summer after he and Dre Applewhite, late signees by Ray's staff, both suffered season-ending injuries before the 2012-13 season even began. 


"We really didn't expect Jacoby to play but I got late word from Scotty (Johnson) that he wanted to give him a try because he had been progressing to 5-on-5 activity this week," Ray said. "He had no setbacks, swelling and irritation. I sat down with Jacoby today and said there's a difference between the training staff saying you're ready to go and you being ready to go mentally." 




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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