Believe it or not, there was so much Rick Ray liked about his team’s performance on Saturday.Mississippi State’s men’s basketball coach was pleased with his squad’s hustle, energy and “defensive intensity.”There’s just one problem – and it’s a big one at that.It didn’t add to a victory.The Bulldogs (5-5) fell 53-51 at the hands of mid-major South Carolina-Upstate (9-4) with a few hundred fans sprinkled in the stands at the Mississippi Coliseum.“Our guys made a concerted effort to do the things the coaching staff wanted them to do,” Ray said. “…We have to continue to do the things we did today.”Mississippi State is now on a five-game losing streak to non-conference opponents for the first time since the 1963-64 season.“That game right there hurt,” Ray said. “That one hurt our guys.”MSU knotted the score at 51-all after Fallou Ndoye followed up on a Roquez Johnson missed layup with 17.7 seconds left.On USC Upstate’s next possession, Ty Greene hit a 15-foot, fade-away jumper to give the Spartans the lead – and, a few ticks later, the win.MSU guard I.J. Ready corralled the inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the court and missed a floater as time expired.“The mood in the locker room, there are no hanging heads,” said Jackson-native Fred Thomas, who posted seven points and eight rebounds with several of his family members in the crowd. “We played great this game. …We just have to overcome this.”Johnson, who led all scorers with 15 points, wasn’t as cheery.Johnson was one of just two Bulldogs to reach double digits, joined by Ndoye’s 11-point night.“I’m very disappointed,” Johnson said. “And I know other guys are.”It’s hard to blame him.MSU’s skid includes back-to-back losses to Sun Belt and Atlantic Sun Conference foes.“I didn’t look at those games and say, ‘These are going to be Ws,’” Ray said. “… The Arkansas State (loss) shouldn’t have hurt because we just didn’t give the effort needed to win. … We did in this one, that’s why it hurts.”Mississippi State came out flat to start the game, shooting 30 percent from the field – including 0-of-6 from 3-point range – to head into halftime down 22-15.The Bulldogs led just once in the first half.“We just didn’t bring it in the first half,” Johnson said.The second-half started much differently.The Bulldog opened on a 6-0 run, reclaiming the lead with nine minutes left.But the Spartans wouldn’t let it last.USC Upstate surged to an 8-0 run after MSU claimed its lead.The Spartans had three shooters reach double digits, fronted by Damian Goodwin’s 14 points.“USC Upstate is a good team,” Ray said.Contact Riley Blevins at (601) 961-7344 or [email protected] Follow @Riley_Blevins on Twitter.