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Mississippi State out to finish strong against North Texas

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Mississippi State and North Texas both have had second-half issues as they prepare to meet Sunday afternoon in Tupelo, Miss.

The Bulldogs (8-2) blew a 12-point lead with six minutes remaining and lost to Southern 60-59 on Dec. 3. After bouncing back with a 30-point win against Tulane, they saw a 19-point second-half lead vanish before holding off visiting Murray State to win 85-81 on Wednesday.

“It’s been real frustrating,” forward Cameron Matthews said. “Just knowing the guys that have been here, we’ve weathered storms before. We’ve got to do better job of containing the other team and not letting them get confidence once we punch them in the mouth.”

Mississippi State punched the Racers in the mouth by shooting 78.3 percent from the floor, including 60 percent on 3-pointers, in taking a 12-point halftime lead.

“At one point (during a first-half timeout) I started chirping at them about not having any offensive rebounds,” Bulldogs coach Chris Jans said, “and then I looked at the stat sheet and we’re 15-for-16 from the field.”

Murray State made a 3-pointer to take a two-point lead with 1:43 left, but MSU finished with a 6-0 run to escape.

North Texas (5-4) lost its last game when Fordham’s Abdou Tsimbila grabbed a loose ball in the lane and dunked as time expired to give the host Rams a 60-59 victory last Sunday.

Mean Green coach Ross Hodge called the game “a tale of two halves” after his team squandered a 12-point halftime lead.

Just five days earlier, North Texas led Boise State 64-58 with two minutes remaining and got outscored 11-0 the rest of the way.

Earlier in the season the Mean Green was ahead of LSU by one with 4 1/2 minutes remaining but scored just five more points in a 66-62 loss. They also lost to St. John’s 53-52 when they missed a potential go-ahead jumper with four seconds remaining.

“We’re still learning,” Hodge said, “and we’ll regroup and get better.”

–Field Level Media

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