For about 10 minutes, BYU played like it could hang with the No. 19 team in the country.
But it was no contest after that.
Mississippi State asserted its superior talent with about 10 minutes remaining in the first half, and rolled to an easy 103-81 win over the slumping Cougars in front of an announced crowd of 10,202 Saturday morning at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss.
“I did feel that there were times when we competed really well and executed our stuff,” BYU coach Dave Rose told the BYU sports network. “But there were a lot of times where I really felt like we got discouraged and we didn’t compete at the level, or with the urgency and intensity that we need to pull off a win like this, in this kind of environment.”
The Cougars dropped to 8-7 while losing a third-straight game for the second time this season and have posted their worst non-conference record in Rose’s 14 seasons. They begin West Coast Conference play Thursday at Pacific having lost six of their last nine games.
“Hopefully our guys can learn from this,” Rose said. “We can’t let the score determine the energy and effort we are going to get based on whether things are going well or not going well. It has got to be there all the time.”
NO. 19 MISSISSIPPI STATE 103, BYU 81
• MSU breaks from a 21-21 tie with a 13-0 run midway through the first half and leads by as many as 36 points en route to winning its ninth-straight game
• Yoeli Childs leads BYU with 25 points, but grabs just two rebounds and commits six turnovers
• BYU loses its third-straight game for the second time this season and falls to 8-7, its worst non-conference record in coach Dave Rose’s 13 seasons
Six-foot-10 Aric Holman, a probable NBA draft pick, scored a career-high 28 points on 11 of 18 shooting in just 24 minutes and Quinndary Weatherspoon added 27 for the Bulldogs, who shot 54 percent from the field and led by as many as 36 points.
“They were big, they were physical, they were athletic and they did well on the boards,” said BYU guard Rylan Bergesen. “They were what we expected.”
Which means they were way too good for the Cougars, who are 0-3 against ranked teams, 0-5 in true road games, and have given up an average of 96.8 points in those five games away from the Marriott Center.
As in last Saturday’s loss at San Diego State, turnovers did in the Cougars — on both ends of the floor. MSU turned 19 BYU turnovers into 24 points.
“That happened [again] today where we turned that thing over and then we just can’t stop [the ball] until it is in the basket at the other end,” Rose said. “We had three or four of those, and their lead is up to eight or nine points, and you are fighting from behind.”
Offensively, the Cougars started well, but fizzled when Yoeli Childs and TJ Haws were off the court at the same time. Childs led the team with 25 points, but gathered just two rebounds. Haws added 14 points on 4 of 15 shooting. The Cougars were 5 of 20 from 3-point range and shot just 43 percent.
Haws hit a floater to tie the game at 21-21 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. However, the Bulldogs went on a 13-0 run over the next minute and 21 seconds, thanks to several BYU turnovers that led to easy baskets.
“We just kind of let our energy and our determination slide a little bit,” Rose said. “That’s what we really got to work on. We’ve got to get better at that.”
Trailing 48-38 at halftime, the Cougars cut the deficit to eight several times early in the second half, but each time the Bulldogs had an answer — usually a 3-pointer or a 3-point play.
Mississippi State went on a 16-2 run midway through the second half to put it away.
Four technical fouls were assessed in the game — three on the Cougars. BYU’s bench picked up one in the first half for protesting a non-call, while Jahshire Hardnett and Nick Emery got technicals in the second half for jawing with MSU players.
“There was a lot of jawing going on back and forth and back and forth [so it was important] that we get out of here with all of our team intact so we can prepare for our opening game in league,” Rose said.
Zac Seljaas added 13 points and Luke Worthington had eight points and five rebounds while playing on a sprained toe suffered in practice Wednesday. Kolby Lee did not make the trip because he was ill and Dalton Nixon did not play due to “issues he needs to deal with when we get back,” Rose said.