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Bulldogs go back on road

January 18, 2013

MSU junior guard Jalen Steele, right, makes the trip back to his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., as the Bulldogs play the Tennessee Volunteers today. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

There is very little down time when the Southeastern Conference basketball portion of the schedule tips off.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs find that out today as they start a two-game road trip.

The Bulldogs (7-8, 2-1) travel to Knoxville, Tenn. to take on the Tennessee Volunteers (8-7, 0-3). Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC Network and locally on WCBI.

MSU is looking to beat Tennessee for three-straight outings for the first time since winning four in a row from 1994-96. The Bulldogs are also looking to win back-to-back games in Knoxville for the first time since 1978-79.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 75-43 loss to Alabama at home on Wednesday, so head coach Rick Ray and his squad had only two days to get over the loss and get ready for Tennessee.

"With the way the schedule is, it's a quick turnaround," Ray said. "You have basically two days of preparation to get ready for a Tennessee. You can't go hard (Thursday) no matter how hard you lost because you have to be smart about the fact that you've only got eight guys that you're playing. It's more so a mental preparation (Thursday) and then some physical preparation on Friday."

Before the loss to the Crimson Tide, MSU had won three in a row including the first two SEC games of the schedule.

MSU began to receive praise from the media for the 2-0 start in the SEC. 

"I don't know for sure if it's the youth or the fact that we hadn't had success before and experienced success," Ray said. "I always say 'reading the press clippings is like poison. The poison can't hurt unless you drink it.' I think those guys starting seeing themselves in the media and got satisfied with where they were. We can't be that way. We can never be satisfied."

For MSU junior guard Jalen Steele, he will be returning to his hometown. In his freshman season, Steele missed the game in Knoxville as he tore his ACL the game before against LSU.

Steele wants to have a good showing in his hometown, but knows it's going to take a team effort to get the victory.

"(We have to) cut down on the turnovers, get all the second chance balls and all the loose balls," Steele said. "(We need to) spend all the energy, put all of it on the court and don't save nothing. (We) don't (want to) hold back."

There are a couple of connections between the two coaching staffs.

MSU assistant Wes Flanigan and Tennessee assistant Tracy Webster were on Doc Sadler's staff together at Nebraska in 2010-11.

Ray and Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin were assistants at Purdue under Matt Painter in 2007 and 2008. The Boilermakers were 47-21 during that time and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament both seasons.

"I know Cuonzo Martin and they are going to compete," Ray said. "We just better get ready to go out and compete. It's not going to be X and O situation. It's going to be are you ready to play competitive basketball?"

The Volunteers are led by Jordan McRae's 13.9 points per game. Trae Golden and Jarnell Stokes are averaging just under 11 points per outing.

The Bulldogs are led sophomore forward Roquez Johnson's 11.4 points per game. Steele puts up 10.6 points per contest and freshman guard Fred Thomas averages 10 points per outing. 

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