Mississippi State downs North Florida 109-81
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By PAUL JONES
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Aric Holman had 23 points to help Mississippi State pull away in the second half for a 109-81 win over North Florida on Saturday.
Holman was one of five Mississippi State players in double figures and the Bulldogs shot a season-best 62 percent from the field. The Bulldogs (12-1) also got 18 points from Quinndary Weatherspoon and Xavian Stapleton had 16 points, including 12 in the second half. Tyson Carter and Nick Weatherspoon each had 11 points for Mississippi State.
North Florida (5-11) was led by Trip Day's 17 points and JT Escobar chipped in 14 points, led by a 4 of 7 showing beyond the arc. Wajid Aminu and Ivan Ganida-Rosa also finished in double digits for the Ospreys with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The 109 points were a season high for the Bulldogs and the most since Mississippi State posted 109 against Troy University in 1995. Mississippi State also had a season-high 24 assists and dominated the boards with a 46-21 advantage.
"We were just being patient," said Holman, who was 10 of 12 from the field. "That is the key thing for us and Coach (Ben) Howland talks about it every day in practice, about being patient. We can all score the ball but being patient gives us all open looks."
Both teams were efficient on the offensive end in the first half and neither team held a lead larger than five points. The Bulldogs shot 55.3 percent in that opening half while the Ospreys shot 46.9 percent, including a 7-of-14 showing on 3 pointers.
The first half featured 10 ties and three lead changes before Mississippi State settled into a 47-43 halftime advantage.
However, the Bulldogs opened the second half on a 32-9 run and shot a sizzling 69.7 percent over the final 20 minutes. Mississippi State led by as many as 28 in the second half and North Florida shot just 38 percent after the break.
"I am glad we got the win," said Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland. "Obviously, the first half went back and forth and North Florida shot really well from 3. In the second half we did a better job defending the 3 point line and we shot better, too."
For the game, North Florida made 12 of 29 from 3-point territory and had 14 turnovers. Mississippi State also outscored the Ospreys 58-28 in the paint and had a 19-6 advantage on second-chance points.
North Florida: The Ospreys have now lost four straight after posting a season-long, four-game winning streak earlier this month. North Florida has one more non-conference game left in the regular season before starting Atlantic Sun Conference play next Saturday.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs' 12-1 start is the program's best since starting 12-1 in the 2011-12 campaign. The 2011-12 squad went to the NIT, which is the last postseason appearance for Mississippi State's program.
North Florida concludes non-conference action on Tuesday and play host to Florida National.
Mississippi State opens the SEC schedule on Tuesday as the Bulldogs host Arkansas.
Updated December 30, 2017