Mississippi State coach RickÂ Ray calls out to his team in the second half of their NCAA college basketball game against LSU. (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
It wasn't the best week for the Mississippi State men's basketball team on the court.
The Bulldogs held halftime leads in both games they played this week, but let things slip away in the second half.
"(It was a) tough week for us on the basketball court," MSU head coach Rick Ray said during Monday's Southeastern Conference teleconference. "I thought we were competitive in two games."
It was a tale of two halves for the Bulldogs in losses against Texas A&M and LSU.
The Bulldogs rushed out to early leads in both games and held a 12-point halftime lead against Texas A&M and a season SEC best 14-point lead against LSU.
"The first two halves of the LSU and Texas A&M games were the best that we've played in SEC play, including our two wins," Ray said. "The unfortunate part of it is I thought in the second half that we made some mistakes that ended up giving us not a chance to win the ballgame."
MSU struggled with something different in the second half of each game. It was holding onto the ball against the Aggies and converting at the free-throw line against the Tigers.
"The Texas A&M game we had way too many turnovers, and then obviously in that game against LSU, we were just horrid from the free throw line," Ray said.
Things don't get easier for the Bulldogs this week. They travel to Oxford to meet in-state rival Ole Miss Wednesday night, then take the trip to Gainesville, Fla., to play the No. 2 (Associated Press) Florida Gators Saturday.
MSU looks to get over the two losses and play like it did in the first half.
"If we can figure out a way to correct those mistakes, and if we continue to play defense the way we played in those first two halves, we have a chance to win," Ray said. "We can't beat ourselves."
In other SEC games this week, Florida plays at Arkansas and Kentucky hosts South Carolina today. Along with MSU traveling to Ole Miss on Wednesday, Auburn hosts Alabama, Georgia faces Tennessee on the road and LSU is at home against Vanderbilt. The lone Thursday game has Missouri traveling to Texas A&M.
Saturday matches MSU at Florida, Ole Miss travels to Missouri, Vanderbilt hosts Arkansas, Auburn travels to meet Kentucky, Georgia is at home for Texas A&M and Alabama hosts LSU.
Ole Miss not only loss two games last week, it had two players go down with an injury.
Rebel Forward Aaron Jones suffered a torn ACL and guard Nick Williams reinjured his foot.
"We are coming off a tough week," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Two tough losses to two good teams. We've had to deal with some personnel issues as it has to do with injuries."
Jones will miss the rest of the season, while Williams status is up in the air.
It is unlikely that Williams will play against MSU on Wednesday, but he is making steps to return later in the season.
"We got a good report (Monday morning)," Kennedy said. "He went and had his cast removed. (With) the procedure that was performed, the results have been good, so now he is out of the cast and he will begin extensive rehab as we speak. We will see how he responds to that."
Jones was averaging 3.5 points per game, while Williams was averaging just under 10 points per outing.
romp of SEC opponents
Florida has not had much trouble in SEC play yet.
The Gators have yet to have an SEC opponent come within single digits of them. Ole Miss only lost by 14 last Saturday to be the closest.
Florida is beating SEC teams by an average of 26.5 points per game.
"We've played really good defense," UF head coach Billy Donovan said. "We have shot a pretty high percentage form the field. That obviously has enabled us to score some points. Defensively, we have done a good job here the first eight games defending teams."
The Gators are looking to continue their dominating start. Florida travels to Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks.
Arkansas has played particularly well at home this season and Donovan knows how hard it can be to play there.
"We certainly have a tough challenge going into Fayetteville," Donovan said. "I've always thought Bud Walton Arena is a great place to play. Certainly they have played exceptionally well at home."
The Gators return home Saturday to host Mississippi State. In the first meeting in Starkville, Florida beat MSU by 35.
"Little bit of familiarity just because we played them about 10 days ago," Donovan said. "There is a little bit of awareness playing against them before."
Kentucky's Noel earns
2nd SEC honor in a row
Kentucky freshman forward Nerlens Noel won SEC Freshman of the Week for the second time in as many weeks.
The 6-foot-10, 244-pound Everett, Mass., native averaged 10.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and seven blocks in wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M, both on the road.
Noel began the week with a 12-block performance against Ole Miss. The 12 rejections set a new single-game record for the Wildcats and ranks as the third-most ever for an SEC player.
Georgia sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope earned the SEC Player of the Week honor.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound sophomore Greenville, Ga., native averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in wins over Auburn and South Carolina.
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