Mississippi State closed the game on a 17-0 run and turned away an upset-minded Sam Houston State squad 67-58 on Friday night.
Tyson Carter led the Bulldogs (2-0) with a season-high 28 points while DJ Stewart added 15. Reggie Perry had his first double-double of the season with 14 rebounds and 10 points and Robert Woodard had 10 points.
"Our turnovers really, really caused us problems in the first half," said Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland. "They really got into us and we did not handle the pressure at all. But I was proud of the way our team fought back. We never dropped our heads, even down by 18 points. That makes me feel good about our group and we were more aggressive and did a better hob rebounding in the second half."
Carter hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 58-58 with 1:57 left. Woodard gave the Bulldogs the lead for good with a 3-pointer with 59 seconds to go. Sam Houston State led by 10 points at halftime and by as many as 16 in the second half.
Zach Nutall had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Sam Houston State (1-1). Kai Mitchell and Chad Bowie scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
"I feel like we took better care of the ball and got stops, and both contributed to the comeback," said Carter. "We rely a lot on our defense and you have to when you go through scoring droughts. So I tried to put myself in position to score for us in those rough spots. But we have to work on our turnovers."
Mississippi State jumped to a 7-3 early but things quickly went downhill. Sparked by Bulldog turnovers, Sam Houston State went on a 19-2 run to grab control 34-17 with just under three minutes left in the first half.
However, Carter scored eight unanswered points and the Bulldogs trailed 34-27 at halftime.
Carter had 19 points in the first half and was 6 of 7 from the field and 5 of 5 at the free throw line. Mississippi State had 16 first-half turnovers and the Bearkats held a commanding 17-5 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Bulldogs shot 47.8% in the first half and held a 19-15 advantage on the backboard. Sam Houston State shot 42.9% in the first half and had five turnovers.
But it would be a different story down the stretch in the second half.
Sam Houston State steadily expanded the 10-point halftime advantage and took a 50-32 lead following a Terryonte Thomas bucket with 13:02 left. Sparked by Carter again, the senior guard's layup cut the Bearkats' lead to 56-50 with 4:10 left in regulation. Sam Houston State would only score one field goal the rest of the way as the Bulldogs finished with a 33-6 run in the final 13:02.
"I thought with 14 minutes left in the game we had it right where we wanted it," said Sam Houston State head coach Jason Hooten. "We have a chance to have a good team but we have a long ways to go. We got a little tight and didn't score in the last 3:50 of the game. Overall, we gave one away and had it right where we wanted. I told them in the locker room that we will learn a lot from this one."
For the game, Mississippi State shot 50% from the field and made 5 of 18 attempts beyond the arc. The Bulldogs were 16 of 24 at the free throw line and held a 41-28 advantage in rebounds. Sam Houston State shot 36.9% overall and just 30 percent in the second half. The Bearkats were 6 of 22 on 3-point attempts and 4 of 4 at the charity stripe. Sam Houston State finished with 11 turnovers and had 12 steals.
Sam Houston State: Despite the loss, Sam Houston State showed they can give Power 5 teams fits with their offensive execution and defensive efforts. The Bearkats won 21 games last year and made the program's first NIT appearance.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs survived and have eight more games left before the return of junior guard Nick Weatherspoon, who is sitting out the first 10 games of the season because of an NCAA suspension. Weatherspoon is set to make his season debut on Dec. 22 against New Mexico State in Jackson, Miss.
Sam Houston State: The Bearkats remain on the road and play at Central Michigan next Saturday (Nov. 16).
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs continue their season-opening, four-game home stand Thursday and host Louisiana-Monroe.