STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State has been looking for more first-half offense in men’s basketball this season. The Bulldogs got just that in a 78-65 victory over Florida A&M Tuesday night in the Humphrey Coliseum. “I thought we had a lot of energy in the first half,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “Dre Applewhite really provided us the energy that we need to have. We also got to the free throw line. In the first half alone, we had 13 buckets and nine assists on those, so that is what we want to do on the offensive end.” MSU improved to 7-2 by hitting 33 of 45 attempts at the free throw line while only committing 12 turnovers. The Bulldogs never trailed in the contest. “We have shot a lot of free throws in practice,” MSU freshman guard Dre Applewhite said. “(Craig Sword) and I have big bodies, so we got to find a way to get to the line.” MSU quickly scored the game’s first five points on a 3-point by Colin Borchert and a follow-up basket by Craig Sword. The Rattlers closed within 10-9 before the Bulldogs scored the game’s next four points on two free throws by Trivante Bloodman and a layup by Sword. MSU held Florida A&M scoreless for a stretch better than four minutes as the Bulldogs built the lead to 25-13. The Bulldogs had five first-half steals, including a pair by Colin Borchert and Applewhite. The Bulldogs pushed the lead to 36-20 on a Sword layup with 1:50 left in the half. Long-range success for Florida A&M kept the Rattlers in the contest. Florida A&M hit 4-of-8 first-half 3-point attempts, including a pair by Jamie Adams. MSU eased into halftime with a 42-27 advantage. “We had a rough go in the non-conference last season,” MSU senior guard Tyson Cunningham said. “So it is good to have some momentum right now. We are excited about the New Year because it is a new start for us.” In the opening half, the Bulldogs converted 52 percent of their shots from the field and made it to the free throw line 20 times (making 13). The Bulldogs also had eight assists and a plus-three rebounding advantage. For MSU, 42 points was the second most points in a first half this season. The halftime advantage was the season’s largest. In the second half, the Bulldogs continued to apply the defensive pressure. MSU scored the first nine points of that half and forced five turnovers over the first four minutes. The Rattlers went better than five minutes without scoring to start the game’s final half. “It is good when you get the ball into the paint,” Ray said. “You want to get to the free throw line and draw fouls. It is important to drive the basketball. We are taking advantage of not being in school right now to get a couple of practices in each day.” For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 20 of 51 shots from the field (39.2 percent), 5 of 18 shots from 3-point range (27.8 percent) and 33 of 45 shots from the foul line (73.3 percent). The Rattlers hit 25 of 73 shots from the field (34.2 percent), 8 of 21 shots from 3-point range (38.1 percent) and 7 of 12 shots from the foul line (58.3 percent). Florida A&M (2-8) held a 48-40 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 13 assists and 12 turnovers, while the Rattlers had 12 assists and 15 turnovers. Sword led the team with 16 points, while Applewhite followed with 14 points and both Borchert and Bloodman each had 10 points. Applewhite posted his first double-double with a team-high 11 rebounds. IJ Ready had eight points and four assists. Borchert added three blocked shots and two steals. FAMU received 14 points from D’Andre Bullard. Trey Kellum had a team-high nine rebounds. MSU remains home for a Thursday night contest with Florida Gulf Coast. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. in the Humphrey Coliseum. The contest will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.