Mario Austin (26 points) and Timmy Bowers (11) both reached double-digit scoring on the night for the Bulldogs, combining for 37 points to pace a lethargic Mississippi State offense. MSU struggled with 38 percent shooting on the night, including just 4-of-21 treys (19%).
"Give (Birmingham) some credit, they went small and spread the floor and that made them hard to guard," said Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury. "They didn't miss shots. We were not ready to guard a team like this. Maybe now we will take things in practice a little more serious than we have been. I thought we had good focus this week and had improved, but we were not prepared for this team."
After a Bailey layup gave the visitors a 14-point lead 18 seconds into the second half, State used four consecutive points by Austin to cut its deficit to 10 at the 18:36 mark. After threatening to cut the visitor's lead to single digits over the course of the next five minutes, Walker's jumper with just less than 13 minutes left sparked the Bullets on a 10-0 run that pushed their lead to a game-high 22 points, 62-40, at the 10:54 mark.
Marcus Campbell's jumper with 7:15 remaining began a 10-0 surge for the Bulldogs that was capped on an alley-oop dunk by Derrick Zimmerman at the 4:08 mark, cutting the deficit to just 11 points. The Bullets pushed their lead back to 15 points just more than a minute later, then held off a late rally by the Bulldogs to secure the victory.
"We missed some easy shots, and then we started tensing up the rest of the night," Stansbury added. "We did a lot better in the second half of getting the ball to Mario than we did in the first half. We will start cutting down the number of people we are playing a little bit more and we will continue to keep working on our defense. We have to get better there."
The two teams traded a handful of baskets to begin the opening period until the Bullets used an 18-5 run midway through the stanza to take a 14-point lead, 25-11, at the 12:27 mark on a layup by Emiko Etete. Ontario Harper's jumper with 9:15 left pulled State to within seven, but Birmingham rode the shoulders of its outside shooting to spark itself on a 9-2 run in the waning moments of the first half to take a 44-32 lead into the halftime break.
Mississippi State will return to action next Saturday, Nov. 17, when the Bulldogs open up their 2001-02 regular season at home against Nicholls State. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.
BIRMINGHAM BULLETS (86)
O'Connell 0-6 3-4 3, Etete 3-11 0-0 7, Bailey 9-12 6-11 26, Paternostro 1-11 6-6 9, Walker 12-17 4-4 32, Salter 2-8 1-2 7, Craven 2-3 1-2 5. Totals 28-60 21-28 86.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (75)
Patterson 0-6 3-4 3, Ignerski 3-11 0-0 7, Austin 12-20 2-4 26, Bowers 5-13 0-0 11, Zimmerman 3-7 0-1 6, Campbell 4-6 0-0 8, Gardner 1-2 0-0 2, Gholar 1-7 2-2 5, Frazier 1-2 0-0 3, Harper 1-7 0-0 2, Smith 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 32-84 7-11 75.
Halftime - Birmingham 44, Mississippi State 32. Fouled Out - None. Rebounds - Birmingham 37 (O'Connell 12), Mississippi State 52 (Ignerski 10). Assists - Birmingham 15 (Paternostro 7), Mississippi State 14 (Zimmerman 6). Total Fouls - Birmingham 15, Mississippi State 22. A - 1,671.