STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Charles Rhodes had 21 points and four blocks as Mississippi State beat Mississippi Valley State 82-63 in the opening round of the NIT on Tuesday night.
The North Region's top seed never trailed and dominated the Delta Devils (18-16) with size down low, scoring 44 points in the paint.Mississippi State (19-13) set a school record with its 14th home victory and advances to the second round, where they'll face the winner of Wednesday's Providence-Bradley game.Jamont Gordon had 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while freshman Ben Hansbrough added 15 points.Carl Lucas had a game-high 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting for MVSU, the regular-season Southwestern Athletic Conference champions.The Bulldogs opened the game with a quick-tempo attack, pressing the Delta Devils on both ends of the court.Rhodes was a factor immediately as the Bulldogs opened a 12-2 lead and never faltered. He blocked the Delta Devils' first shot and scored six of the team's first 12 points.He finished 8-for-12 from the floor and matched his career high in blocks.Mississippi State led by as much as 20 in the first half on the way to a 40-24 halftime lead. The Bulldogs, who won the Southeastern Conference's Western Division but fell short of the NCAA tournament after losing in the SEC semifinals, pushed the lead to as much as 28 late in the second half.Mississippi State forced 17 turnovers in the game and turned MVSU's miscues into 18 points.Gordon, who also was 8-for-12 from the field with two 3-pointers, had seven of his eight assists in the first half.