STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) With every turnover and ill-advised outside shot, Mississippi State coach Rick Ray grew more agitated.
Even after the Bulldogs finished off a reasonably comfortable 59-46 win over Clayton State on Monday night, he couldn't find much good to say about an uneven effort against a program that plays at NCAA Division II level.
''I'm sure there are some positives,'' Ray said with a faint grin. ''But I can't give them to you right now.''
Roquez Johnson scored 15 points and Trivante Bloodman added 12 as the Bulldogs struggled to put away the Lakers until the final minutes.
Mississippi State (4-0) was in control of the game for much of the night, pushing its lead to 49-30 on Fallou Ndoye's free throw with 7:32 remaining. But Clayton State briefly made things interesting against the Bulldogs' backups, using a 13-2 run to cut the lead to 51-43 before a pair of free throws by Gavin Ware with 2:13 left stopped the rally.
Clayton State was led by Kelsey Terry's 14 points. J.C. Bonny added 13. The Lakers might have made the game even closer, but shot just 4 of 21 (19 percent) from 3-point range.
''Even though they're an SEC team, if you attack and try to finish through their chest, you're going to get some points and foul calls if you go strong to the basket,'' Clayton State coach Paul Harrison said.
Ray said he was disappointed he had to put his starters back into the game to finish the victory. Bloodman said the game was a good lesson for everyone on the roster.
''Honestly, it felt like a loss,'' Bloodman said. ''The way we came out - it felt really sluggish.''
Johnson shot 7 of 13 from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds, including six on the offensive end. Bloodman made all eight of his free throw attempts. Ware added 11 points and seven rebounds.
The game was a part of the opening round of the Corpus Christi Coastal Challenge.
Mississippi State shot just 19 of 50 (38 percent) from the field and was 0 for 7 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs had a 43-30 rebounding advantage.
Clayton State was competitive early, tying the game at 13 on a layup by Dantez Bennamon with 8:49 remaining in the first half. The Bulldogs responded with a 16-2 run to take control by halftime.
Johnson, who came into the game into the game averaging a team-high 17 points, continued his athletic and energetic play with 10 points and seven rebounds in the first half. Mississippi State led 29-18 at halftime despite shooting 10 of 32 (31.3 percent) from the field, living off of 10 offensive rebounds and 20 points in the paint.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have a 4-0 record for the first time since the 2010-11 season and the seventh time in the last 20 years.
Clayton State: The Lakers play in the Peach Belt Conference. Coach Paul Harrison earned his law degree from Tulane in 2004.
Mississippi State vs. St. Louis in the Corpus Christi Coastal Challenge
Clayton State vs. St. Augustine in the Florida Tech Thanksgiving Tournament
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