SEC's Mississippi State Pulls Away for a 77-53 Saturday Matinee Win

Jan. 5, 2008

Box Score |  Photo Gallery 

JACKSON, Miss. - Lafayette shot a season-low 26 percent from the floor and Mississippi State pulled away in the second half with a 22-2 run to win 77-53 on Saturday afternoon in the Mississippi Coliseum. Senior Bilal Abdullah led the Leopards with a season-high 21 points and classmate Everest Schmidt chipped in with 10 points.

Mississippi State (9-5) was too much for the Leopards in the first half, jumping out to a 37-25 lead by halftime. The Leopards trailed by as many as 21 points, but closed the opening session with a 12-3 run. With Mississippi State leading 9-7 at the 16:23 mark, the Bulldogs went on a 25-6 run that concluded at 5:29. The span was capped by three-pointers from Ravern Johnson and Ben Hansbrough as Mississippi State led 34-13.

Lafayette's 12-3 run included two three-pointers and a pair of free throws from Abdullah. Michael Gruner and Schmidt added layups in the run. The Leopards shot 28 percent in the first half, their worst first-half shooting effort of the season and committed 10 turnovers to Mississippi State's eight.

Coming out of the locker room, Lafayette (8-6) scored seven straight to cut the margin to 37-32 by the 18:06 mark when Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury called a timeout. Two layups and another of Abdullah's three-pointers ran Lafayette's run to 14-0 from the first half into the second half.

Lafayette managed to cut the Bulldogs' lead to four points (44-40) at 15:36 with a layup from Abdullah. Jamont Gordon led the way as the Bulldogs responded with 10 unanswered points to take the 54-40 lead at 10:34. Gruner tipped in a bucket at 7:50 to cut the lead to nine points (55-46).

Mississippi State went on a 22-2 run over the next five minutes after Jarvis Varnado converted on both free-throw opportunities and took a 77-48 lead after Hansbrough scored a bucket. Hansbrough finished the afternoon with a team-high 17 points and joined Gordon (15), Varnado (16) and Johnson (11) in double figures as Mississippi State went on to win 77-53.

"I thought we came out tentative in the first 10 minutes of the game. In the second half, we started to play like we are capable of," said Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon. This is a Southeastern Conference team, and we have to play 40 minutes of basketball to compete in a game like this. This is one game down. We knew it was going to be tough. We just did not have enough to get over the top in this game."

Matt Betley

The Leopards complete their eight-game road swing at Princeton on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday's game in Jackson, Miss. marked the first time that Lafayette has played in the Magnolia State.
• Lafayette was out-rebounded 48-44 after holding its own against Pittsburgh.
• Lafayette shot a season-low 24 percent (6-for-25) from three-point range .
• Senior Bilal Abdullah is just six points shy of scoring his 1,000th to become the 35th player in Lafayette history to do so. Justin DeBerry '04 was the most recent player to reach the 1,000 point plateau in 2003.
• Lafayette's 28 percent shooting effort in the first half was a season low, falling short of a 30 percent mark vs. UMBC on Nov. 20, 2007.
• For just the second time this season, Lafayette scored fewer than 10 three-pointers against Mississippi State. The first occurrence came in the season-opener against Wagner when the Leopards hit eight three's.