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Bulldogs seek boost

February 2, 2013

Jalen Steele drives the basketball into the lane for MSU. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

If any team could use a win to boost its confidence, it's the Mississippi State men's basketball team.

The Bulldogs have lost their last five games and lost their last three inside Humphrey Coliseum. MSU (7-12, 2-5) host LSU (11-7, 2-5) today in the 203rd meeting between the two teams.

Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports South.

The Bulldogs opened the Southeastern Conference season at 2-0, but since then, they have not been able to find a win.

"It's been hard," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "Getting those first two wins, especially a road win at Georgia, guys are feeling really good about themselves. I have talked to them about handling success. You can very well end up 2-16 after we got done with that Georgia win. I said 'you guys are resting on your laurels. It's not over with. We have got 16 more games in the SEC. You can lose them all if you don't get out of this doldrum of playing hard.' I want to try to keep our spirits up."

The Bulldogs are coming off three straight losses at home for the first time since 2006.

Last time out MSU dropped a 55-49 overtime decision to Texas A&M at home.

"They are feeling bad, especially after their overtime loss to Texas A&M," Ray said. "Our guys put their heart and soul into that game. I thought we really played hard and competed. In a football terminology, we just had too many pick-sixes. The thing I always try to focus in on with our guys, I keep going back to our (motto), play harder than the other team, play tougher than the other team and play smarter than the other team. I thought we did two of those things against Texas A&M. Obviously, we didn't play smarter because we gave the ball to them."

For the players, it's just about getting back to the basics.

Bulldog junior guard Jalen Steele has scored only nine points in the last two games. All nine came against Texas A&M as Steele didn't score against Florida.

"Really (it's) keep continuing doing what the coach ask us to do on the offensive end and the defensive end," Steele said. "At the same time, everybody has to get back to playing their game, especially me, Craig (Sword) and Fred (Thomas). Everybody has to play their game. Once we do that and put in what coach is telling us, everything will fall through and I think we will start winning more games." 

The Tigers are led by point guard Anthony Hickey who is averaging 12.4 points per game. He also is collected just under four steals an outing.

"The thing that concerns me about LSU is the fact that Anthony Hickey is a really good point guard, more so in the fact defensively," Ray said. "I think he leads the SEC in steals. The way our ball-handling has been out top with our point guards, where guys have taken the ball and laying in on the other end, I am really concerned about him defensively with our point guards. We have to find away to alleviate his pressure."

Cleveland native Johnny O'Bryant III is second on the team with 11.9 points per game. Shavon Coleman holds the same mark while Andre Stringer averages just over 11 points per outing.

"The other thing is just their size inside," Ray said. "Johnny O'Bryant is really active and big. I'm really concerned about him getting a lot of post touches. First and foremost, he's a good player. Second of all, we don't have any depth on our front line, so I can't have our guys get into foul trouble. Trying to find a way to keep the ball out of the post and when it does get into the post, where do you come from? Do you come from the other big or do you come from the permitter guy? It's kind of like pick your poison as far as how you are going to keep the ball out of the post."

O'Bryant has registered four consecutive double-doubles. In the Tigers last game, he scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Tigers topped No. 17 Missouri. Keeping his production down is the key.

"We just have to keep him off the boards, keep him out of the paint and push him off the block as much as possible," Steele said. "We have to make him become an outside game instead of an inside game. Once we get the inside game with him, it's going to be very tough to stop him."

Thomas leads the Bulldogs with a 10.6 clip. Steele, Sword and Roqeuz Johnson each average just over nine points.

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