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SMITH COLUMN: Loss to LSU 'hurts' as Ray builds State

February 3, 2013

SMITH

Mississippi State has suffered some tough losses on the basketball court this season.

None were tougher than what took place at Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday.
The Bulldogs surrendered a 17-point lead, got it back in the late stages of the game, only to lose in the final seconds as the LSU Tigers won a 69-68 decision in Southeastern Conference action.

MSU coach Rick Ray opened his post game press conference with the comment, "this one right here hurts."

That could be considered an understatement.

Going into the game, the Bulldogs knew the Tigers were one of the teams that shared a spot in the bottom half of the league with them. A win would have helped MSU begin to make a move toward the middle of the pack in the conference.

Instead, the loss sends the Bulldogs right to the bottom.

Even though things look bleak for MSU, this is not the time to throw in the towel.

Ray and assistant coach George Brooks could be seen throughout the game against LSU, saying to the Bulldogs "keep playing" and "got to finish."
It's going to be a challenge for the coaching staff to keep MSU's players believing with back-to-back difficult losses.

The defeat at the hands of the Tigers follows Wednesday night's 55-49 slip in overtime against Texas A&M.

The Bulldogs have taken their share of bad beatings as well 82-47 to Florida, 96-70 to Arkansas, 72-57 to Tennessee and 75-43 to Alabama.

Ray isn't worried about how his team will respond to adversity.

"We have good kids," Ray said. "If we had bad kids, I'd be worried. It's a process we should be able to handle."

It's going to be a process and Ray must be given a chance to keeping building at MSU. The season must play out to see what shape the Bulldogs will be in at the end.

Turnovers have been an issue for MSU all season long and at times, that was the case Saturday, but put the finger on free-throw shooting, or the lack thereof, as the reason the Bulldogs could not win against LSU.

MSU missed free throws, especially down the stretch, that really damaged any chances for a victory. The Bulldogs shot 48.1 percent from the charity stripe, the lowest of the season, and only made 8-of-20 from the line in the second half.

Moving forward MSU must take care of the basketball better and hit free throws with more consistency.

At the start of the week, it was believed the games against Texas A&M and LSU were crucial for the Bulldogs to put in the win column because of what's upcoming.

MSU must now travel to Ole Miss Wednesday and to Florida next Saturday.
Those two trips won't be very pleasant experiences if the Bulldogs don't solve the issues that have hampered their progress lately.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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