The Mississippi State men's basketball team's depth has been a challenge everyday.
It's especially going to show in practice this week.
MSU (7-9, 2-2) travels to Fayetteville, Ark. to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (11-6, 2-2) on Wednesday.
The Razorbacks like to use a good amount of pressure when on defense. The Bulldogs will do their best to simulate the pressure, but with only seven healthy scholarship players and two walk-ons it might be hard.
"It's going to be difficult for us to simulate what Arkansas is going to bring with their pressure defense with all their different presses," MSU head coach Rick Ray said in the Monday Southeastern Conference teleconference. "We're trying to find a way with managers, athletic trainers, coaches and things like that just to get bodies out on the court to try to simulate that."
Ray has already used managers and coaches in practice this season. Even with the extra help from his staff, the Razorbacks won't put out managers and coaches on the floor Wednesday night.
"Even with those guys being out there, the problem is still simulating what Arkansas does with their length and athleticism with those pressures," Ray said. "At the end of the day, we're not going to be able to simulate what Arkansas is going to do with the pressing."
The good thing for Ray and the Bulldogs is you don't need a lot of bodies to run drills designed to help against the press.
"We've got to really just concentrate on our guys getting better when we do our drills that we do against the press, whether it be two-on-one or three-on-two, and getting our guys to handle the basketball versus the pressure," Ray said.
Another concern, with not enough bodies and going against the press, is there won't be enough people in the rotation to give each player the right amount of rest.
MSU has already made it through half the season with the small roster size, but going against a press defense can wear players down quicker.
"It's a concern with anybody that we play, because no matter who we're playing, we're going to have a short bench compared to theirs," Ray said. "It can be doubly more so with Arkansas' pressure. It's going to be a concern for us. We've got to make sure that we're not rushing to try and break the press."
In other SEC action this week, South Carolina travels to Missouri and Alabama hosts Kentucky today. Along with Mississippi State going to Arkansas, the games on Wednesday feature Texas A&M at LSU, Vanderbilt at Auburn and Georgia hosting Florida. Ole Miss plays host to Tennessee on Thursday. Saturday's schedule has Florida at Mississippi State, Arkansas at South Carolina, Alabama at Tennessee, Kentucky hosting LSU, Vanderbilt at Missouri, Texas A&M hosting Georgia and Ole Miss on the road at Auburn.
for offensive consistency
The Razorbacks are looking to have better consistency shooting the ball.
Arkansas only made 26-of-66 shots in a 76-64 loss to Ole Miss in Oxford on Saturday.
"We're trying to find some consistency in terms of shooting the ball better and getting the tempo more up to how we want to play," head coach of the Hogs Mike Anderson said on the SEC teleconference.
Anderson and the Razorbacks like to get out and run. Arkansas doesn't go deep into its bench so playing up-tempo can sometimes be a challenge.
"Sometimes you've got to make adjustments," Anderson said. "I don't think when you're playing pressure defense or up-tempo, it's not feast or famine, and I think you've got to make sure your guys understand that. The more you get into conference play, teams are going to be familiar with you."
Even with the lack of depth and the fact they aren't shooting the ball as of late, Anderson is prepared to do anything.
"I've always been of the mindset of we want to be unpredictable," Anderson said. "You don't know when and where it's going to take place or how it's going to take place. That's been my philosophy from the standpoint of making the subtle adjustments, and at the same time continue to do what you do."
status unknown for Alabama
Kentucky freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein status for today's game at Alabama is questionable.
The 7-foot, 244-pound Olathe, Kan., native missed Saturday's 75-53 win over Auburn on the road. He had a "minor procedure" on an old injury in his left knee.
"He was there with us (Monday) and I don't know if he'll practice," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said during the SEC teleconference. "If I don't think he can help us, we'll probably leave him home, but if he says he can go, he'll be with us."
He is averaging 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per outing.
honored by SEC
Kentucky's Nerlens Noel and Ole Miss's Marshall Henderson earned Player of the Week honors by the SEC.
Noel was selected as freshman of the week and Henderson earned SEC Player of the Week.
Noel, a 6-foot-4, 244-pound forward, averaged 11 points, nine rebounds and 6.5 blocks in wins over Tennessee and Auburn.
"His shot selection was really good," Calipari said. "He played and drove to make his teammates better instead of just trying to shoot the ball."
Henderson averaged 21 points, 4.5 rebounds and three steals over the past week. The Rebels beat Vanderbilt and Arkansas.
In the win against the Commodores, Henderson had a game-high 26 points and hit a 35-foot 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.
He had five steals against Arkansas as the Rebels turned the Razorbacks over a season-high 19 times.
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