STARKVILLE - Mississippi State had seen in the scouting report just how close Arkansas-Pine Bluff had already played TCU and Oklahoma on the road this season and were determined to meet that challenge.
The Bulldogs closed out the Sunday's opening half on a 24-5 run and cruised to 3-0 following an 80-47 victory.
During that key stretch to close out the first half, MSU produced 11 offensive rebounds, eight steals, seven assists, three 3-pointers and a pair of blocks.
"Our defense was really good during that stretch in the first half and we were able to turn our defense into offense," said guard Tyler Stevenson. "We turned them over a lot and were getting a lot of transition buckets."
MSU coach Chris Jans played 13 players during the first half with 11 of them contributing in the scoring column. The Bulldogs built a 41-19 lead by halftime behind eight points from Cameron Matthews and a strong stretch at both ends of the floor from newcomers Stevenson, Kimani Hamilton and Martavious Russell.
"It was a feel-good half for us," Jans said. "When you get that many guys that get into the guts of the game and have productive minutes, the locker room was jovial and we needed it. Guys always want to play more minutes and I understand that. To have a day where people can be productive and get their name in the scorebook and do some things to help us win the game is really going to help us."
State shot 45.9 percent from the field and connected on seven 3-pointers. The Bulldogs showcased both their balance and depth with seven players scoring seven points or more. D.J. Jeffries and Tolu Smith led the way with 10 points apiece with Smith narrowly missing a double-double with nine rebounds.
Mississippi State's freshmen class enjoyed a stellar game, combining for 21 points, five rebounds and five steals off the bench. Hamilton contributed eight points, Russell added seven and Shawn Jones Jr. scored six on a pair of 3s.
"Coach Jans preaches sharing the ball a lot and that gets our whole team going," Hamilton said. "It's hard to stop all of us if we've all got a groove going."
Hamilton and Russell both had rim-rattling dunks during the final minute of the game. Russell slammed it home over a Golden Lion defender, bringing the fans inside Humphrey Coliseum to their feet. He was also fouled on the dunk, leading to a 3-point play.
"It was exciting," Russell said. "When it happened, I was just hoping it went in so that I see the video later on."
The Bulldogs held UAPB (1-3) to just 23.1 percent shooting and 3 of 16 behind the arc. MSU also forced 18 turnovers and received 47 points from its bench.
"This year's team is just a lot more aggressive and has a lot more bite to it," Smith said.
The Bulldogs are back at home on Thursday as they host South Dakota at 8 p.m. on SEC Network. That game will serve as the regional round of the Fort Myers Tipoff.