Coming into Thursday's contest, the 2012-2013 Bulldogs were searching for an identity. A game removed from blowing an 18-point lead and falling in the last minute to Alabama A&M, MSU was faced with finding a way to start the new year in a positive way. They did that and more Thursday night against the Privateers from NOLA, bouncing back in a big way, 97-46.
The game began much like the Sunday afternoon game a week ago when MSU came out to a rousing start. The Dawgs came out with an even bigger 12-0 lead in the first few minutes of the ball game but on this day, they wouldn't relinquish the big lead they would build on it.
By the under-12 timeout, the Bulldogs had jumped out to a 19-4 lead and had already forced eight turnovers in the contest. More importantly, State came out hitting three of six three-point shots an area of struggles for the most part of the season to this point.
At halftime it was all but over, as MSU had built a 27-point lead at 43-16 just four days after allowing their opponent to cut the halftime deficit to single digits. Borchert was leading the way with 11 and Steele had knocked down a couple of threes for an eight point total. Of course, 51.5 percent shooting and forcing 14 turnovers was a welcome sign for these young pups as well.
When the second half began, it felt like deja vu was setting in at the Hump was again as the Privateers immediately came out of the gate with a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 20. But for the first time in the MSU season, they were able to get themselves out of a hole before it got out of hand. Rocquez Johnson came through with a big three-point play followed by a Trivante Bloodman driving layup to put the Dawgs back on top, 49-23 with under 16 min. remaining.
All of a sudden, the worst happened for UNO. Flat-top Fred Thomas began knocking down shots from long range and would ride that to the end of the game where he finished with 16. Steele hit a couple of more threes himself and, with the shot clock winding down, Bloodman heaved a desperation three from the corner that hit nothing but the bottom of the net. These things combined led everyone in the crowd to believe that this was simply MSU's night.
The Bulldogs would pour in 54 points in the second half and the 51-point win was the 14th largest victory in the history of the program.
Borchert's team-leading 17 points were a career high while three other pups got into double figures. Thomas and Steele each poured in 16 points with Ware scoring 10 and falling only two rebounds shy of a third-consecutive double-double.
The win might not have come against a premiere opponent, but most fans that realize the state of State and the adversity that this team and their head coach has to face would know that this was a big win going forward. UNO is no Kentucky, Florida or Mizzouri but every win at this point makes for an impressive resume for head coach Rick Ray. Through non-conference play, the Bulldogs finish with a 5-7 record with SEC looming next Wednesday at the Hump with Frank Martin and the Gamecocks rolling in.
All I ask from those reading: give this team the respect they deserve. If you're in town and able to go to a game, spend a few dollars on the ticket. They didn't choose to be in this situation. This team plays harder than any team I've watched in the past 14 years, and to see a third of the stadium full is embarrassing. So regardless of record, give them a chance. You might be surprised what you see.