By Gregg Ellis
STARKVILLE - It might have been a win, but there was little celebration.
Then again, a shaky performance against a Southland Conference foe in the first 25 minutes doesn't call for many high-fives.
Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 4,237 fans at Humphrey Coliseum, Mississippi State opened its season with a 90-55 win against Nicholls State.
But the biggest concern that plagued this team in its two exhibition games continued and left MSU coach Rick Stansbury puzzled: Turnovers.
The Bulldogs, who return to action here at 7 p.m. on Monday against Loyola Marymount, committed 29, 18 coming in the first half. It was the most since 31 against Kentucky in 1997. "No question again we turned the basketball over too many times," said ninth-year MSU coach Rick Stansbury, who is now 8-1 in openers. "But I thought we made adjustments after the first four minutes of the second half.
"We're just not a really smooth flowing team out on the floor yet."
State's inability to protect the basketball prevented it from pulling away from the Colonels earlier than expected, as Nicholls scored 23 points off the turnovers.
In fact, most in attendance were feeling a bit nervous early in the second half.
With 17:48 to play, a baseline jumper by Adonis Gray tied the game at 37-apiece. But it was at that point, despite all the miscues, Mississippi State began to give itself some breathing room.
In a span of four minutes, the Bulldogs orchestrated a 9-0 run and took a 48-37 lead on a 3-pointer by Jamont Gordon, who knocked down a game-high four en route to 14 points.
"If they're going to lead me wide open, I've got to shoot," said Gordon, who was charged with nine turnovers but was credited with seven assists.
Scoring wise, Stansbury had few complaints.
The Bulldogs hit 33 of their 50 shots and were 12 of 26 from 3-point range, while four other players joined Gordon in double-digit scoring.
It was MSU's best shooting effort since 1991, when it hit 67.3 of its shots
against Eastern Kentucky.
"That was a bright spot," Stansbury said. "I thought we shared the ball a lot better and a lot of guys were making the extra passes."
Barry Stewart, Charles Rhodes and Reginald Delk also totaled 14 points, while Ben Hansbrough added 10, all coming in the second half.
"I like it when everyone contributes," said Rhodes, who had five of his team's 44 rebounds and 10 of the turnovers. "At one time, I looked up at the scoreboard and everyone had 10 points."
Defensively, State gave up some open shots, but Nicholls failed to take advantage.
The Colonels hit just 23 of their 64 shots and were just 4 of 25 beyond the arc.
Aaron Scott had the hot hand with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Ryan Bathie totaled 15 points.
"I thought we competed well for 20 minutes, and then their superior size and athleticism took over in the second half," Nicholls coach J.P. Piper said.