March 6, 2014 12:21:46 AM
FROM MSU ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS
ATHENS, Ga. - A tough stretch to end the first half put an end to Mississippi State's chances for an elusive road win Wednesday night.
Georgia built a double-digit lead late in the half and cruised to a 66-45 Southeastern Conference men's basketball win at Stegeman Coliseum.
With the win, Georgia completed a series sweep and moved into the final weekend of regular season in third place in the conference standings. Georgia is now 17-12 overall and 11-6 in the league, while MSU is now 13-17 and 3-14.
"We got off to a good start and did some things well on the defensive end," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "We got some steals but we did not make great decisions in transition. When you play well defensively, you have to take advantage of the run-out opportunities you get. We had a tough stretch to end the half. We haven't done a good job of handling adversity the entire year."
MSU built an early 12-6 lead on a layup by Gavin Ware and dunk by Craig Sword. Georgia battled back from a 16-10 deficit with a 13-2 run. Two free throws by Ware brought MSU within 23-20.
Two free throws by Fred Thomas brought MSU within 29-24 with 2:53 left in the half. Georgia held MSU scoreless the rest of the half and scored the half's final eight points for a 37-24 lead at the intermission.
After MSU closed within nine at 42-33 on a layup by Sword, Georgia scored 10 of the game's next 12 points to build a 52-35 advantage. A follow-up 9-0 run would stretch the lead to 63-37 with 5:50 left.
For the contest, MSU did not hit any of 15 3-point attempts and managed only four assists.
"Right now, we are not offensively skilled," Ray said. "When that is the case, you have to be tougher on the defensive end. Right now, we are not in a position to be that tough on the defensive end because of bodies and foul trouble. You really have to figure out what your identity is when you are not offensively skilled in certain areas like we are."
For the contest, MSU hit 17 of 50 shots from the field (34.0 percent), 0 of 15 shots from 3-point range (0 percent) and 11 of 14 shots from the foul line (78.6 percent). Georgia hit 25 of 58 shots from the field (43.1 percent), 7 of 19 shots from 3-point range (36.8 percent) and 9 of 16 shots from the foul line (56.3 percent).
Georgia held a 38-31 rebounding advantage. MSU had four assists and 12 turnovers, while Georgia had 14 assists and nine turnovers.
Roquez Johnson and Sword led MSU in scoring with nine points apiece. I.J. Ready had a team-high six rebounds. Georgia received 14 points from Kenny Gaines, 13 points from Marcus Thornton and 10 points from Charles Mann.
MSU closes the regular season at home with a 3 p.m. start Saturday against South Carolina. Seniors Colin Borchert and Tyson Cunningham will be honored in pregame ceremonies. The game will be televised regionally by SEC TV from the Humphrey Coliseum.
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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