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Bulldogs looking toward big week

January 29, 2013

Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray shouts at an official during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game. (Photo by April L. Brown, AP)

The Mississippi State men's basketball team is trying to get back on the right track.

The Bulldogs started the Southeastern Conference season 2-0. Since then, they have dropped four contests in the league and now sit at 2-4 and tied for 7th in the league.

The Bulldogs (7-11, 2-4) are coming off two 25-point plus losses. They lost 96-70 to Arkansas on the road and dropped an 82-47 decision to No. 7 (Associated Press) Florida at home.

"I thought we had a difficult week this past week playing Arkansas," MSU head coach Rick Ray said in Monday's SEC teleconference. "(We) ran into a buzzsaw, and those guys play really well at home, then we came and played Florida here at home, who I think is the best team in the SEC, arguably right now, and probably playing better than anybody else in the nation right now. Hopefully, our guys have learned from the Florida game."

The Bulldogs aren't heading in the right direction, but Ray believes the next two games will decide the Bulldogs' fate.

MSU host Texas A&M (12-7, 2-4) Wednesday and LSU (10-7, 1-5) Saturday.

"It's an important week for us with a two-game homestand and trying to get our guys to understand where we are in the SEC," Ray said. "With seven teams being tied at 2-4, if they can make some hay here at home, we're right back in the conference race and trying to be in the upper division of the conference, which I think is important."

For Ray and the Bulldogs, two wins will boost the confidence and give this team something to hang its hat on.

"We've got some guys struggling right now with inexperience and freshman that are trying to figure out their lot in life and what they need to do to sacrifice for our team to be good at this point in time," Ray said.

In action today around the SEC, Vanderbilt travels to Tennessee and Ole Miss host Kentucky. Along with Texas A&M at MSU, Wednesday features Auburn at Georgia, Florida hosting South Carolina and Missouri on the road at LSU. In a Thursday night matchup, Alabama hosts Arkansas. Saturday features LSU at MSU, Missouri hosting Auburn, Georgia at South Carolina, Alabama on the road at Vanderbilt, Arkansas gets Tennessee at home, Kentucky gets a rematch with Texas A&M on the road and the game of the week features Ole Miss hosting Florida.

Texas A&M's Turner
gaining attention

After scoring 40 points inside Rupp Arena on Jan. 9, Texas A&M's Elston Turner has caught the eye of opposing teams.

The Aggies went on to win that day in Lexington, Ken., 83-71. Since then, the Aggies have dropped four in a row and Turner has scored only 41 points in those four losses.

"Well, when you score 40 points at Kentucky and we win, it gets the attention of not only the coaches but it gets the attention of the players," Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said. "I think teams have done a real good job of doubling him when he comes off a ball screen and showing great support on him when comes off down screens."

In the four losses, Turner scored four against Florida, 13 against Alabama, five against LSU and the best was 19 against Georgia at home.

"He was frustrated some against LSU, but he's working through it," Kennedy said. "He was better against Georgia, and they did a really good job of guarding him, but he had 13 points and a number of assists. It's a lot of the experience for him also."

Although Turner has gained the attention of other teams, he has had some opportunities to knock down open shots.

"He's missed some shots," Kennedy said. "He hasn't shot the ball as well when he's been open, which is part of the game. I think that's been the biggest key and we don't, right now, have a lot of guys stepping up to support him when he is taken away. You've got to get people to turn their head to look at somebody else every once in a while, and we're not having enough of those possessions."

Rebels have passionate
player in Henderson

The Ole Miss Rebels are off to one of its best starts in the SEC.

One big reason for that has been the play of junior guard Marshall Henderson. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Hurst, Tex. native has provided a spark to the Rebel basketball team.

After beating Auburn last Saturday night, he enticed the Tiger student section and drew some obscene gestures from the fans.

“We’ve had a number of conversations with Marshall, and I know it’s difficult for people that just see him in brief periods to completely get him," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "I think the passion is coming from a good place."

Henderson leads the SEC with a 19.2 scoring average. He is sixth in the league in 3-pointers knocking down 35.7 percent.

"Obviously, we want to make sure that it does not affect his focus or the team’s focus," Kennedy said. "The guys understand he’s about team first, and they accept him for what he brings to our program. He’s a a guy that loves basketball and plays with an edge. He’s been readily open with the fact that if he didn’t play with that edge, he wouldn’t be a guy that could lead the SEC in scoring.

"As his coach, I’m probably more concerned with his shot selection than maybe him popping his shirt here and there, but he’s a work in progress as is our team. He’s a kid that’s been put in a situation where there’s a lot of attention drawn to him from the minute he walks in the building, and I think for the most part he’s handled it well.”

Wildcats facing
tough week

Kentucky started out the season ranked in the top five, but the defending national champions have been one of the disappointments this year in college basketball.

The Wildcats hold a 13-6 record overall and 4-2 mark in conference play, but for Kentucky that is not the standard.

This week it doesn't get any easier for the Wildcats. Kentucky travels to Oxford to take on the red-hot Ole Miss Rebels today and then they get a rematch in College Station, Tex. with the Texas A&M aggress on Saturday.

“We’re playing one of the hottest teams in the country, and when you watch them on tape, man, they’re men," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "They play physical. They know everybody’s accepted how they’re going to play. They let (Marshall) Henderson take shots. This kid’s got a green light and he’ll go on a streak of baskets. He’s tough, and then the other team we play already beat us at home, so we’ve got a tough week ahead of us.”

The Wildcats haven't had freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein the last few games. It is unknown if he will play this week, but will be with the team.

“He’s been going really hard," Calipari said. "He will travel with us to Mississippi. I don’t know if he’ll play. Probably doubtful, but he’ll be on the court (Monday) some. Whether he’ll go a practice, I don’t know, but he will travel with us.”

Wilbekin, Noel
honored by SEC

Florida's Scottie Wilbekin was selected as the SEC Player of the Week, while Kentucky's Nerlens Noel earned Freshman of the Week honors.

Wilbekin averaged 15 points, six assists and two rebounds in wins over Georgia and Mississippi State.
Noel averaged nine points, 10.5 rebounds and seven blocks in wins over Alabama and LSU.

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