STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Gavin Ware scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Mississippi State to a 71-48 win over North Carolina Central on Thursday to close out the Bulldogs' non-conference schedule.
Ware shot 5 of 7 from the field and was 6 of 6 at the free-throw line.
North Carolina Central shot 24 percent from the field and made just 5 of 30 3-pointers, but outrebounded the Bulldogs 48-38, led by Jeremiah Ingram with 12.
Mississippi State never trailed and led by as many as 31 points in the second half.
Mississippi State outscored the Eagles 40-18 in the paint and held a 17-1 advantage in points off turnovers. However, North Carolina controlled the offensive boards 25-6 and scored 21 second-chance points.
Mississippi State was in control from the start, largely due to North Carolina Central's cold shooting in the first half. The Eagles missed 12 of their first 13 shots and that helped Mississippi State jump to a 15-4 lead in the first nine minutes of the game.
The Bulldogs held the Eagles to just 16.7 percent shooting in the first half and held a double-digit lead for much of the opening half. Meanwhile, Mississippi State shot 52.2 percent in the first half and that included four three-pointers made.
Mississippi State led by as many as 21 points in the first half and was up 34-17 at halftime.
Mississippi State: Senior center Gavin Ware has been in double digits in all 12 games this season. Thursday's meeting with North Carolina Central was the first-ever for the Bulldogs. Senior Fred Thomas now has 943 career points and is just 57 shy of becoming the 37th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points. Thursday's win gave the Bulldogs their second, three-game winning streak of the season.
North Carolina Central: Mississippi State was just the third Southeast Conference team North Carolina Central has face in its basketball history. The Eagles have also played Arkansas and South Carolina. Thursday's game at Mississippi State marked just the second time in school history that the Eagles played a game on New Year's Eve.
Mississippi State hosts Texas A&M on Wednesday to open the SEC schedule.