Mississippi State basketball coach RickÂ Ray calls out to his players in the second half of their NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt. (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
The Mississippi State men's basketball team had a glimmer of hope heading into last Saturday's home game against Vanderbilt.
The Bulldogs (7-19, 2-12) were in the game late against Alabama last Wednesday, but ended up dropping a 64-56 decision.
MSU played well down the stretch and Bulldog head coach Rick Ray was hoping it was going to carry over when the Bulldogs hosted the Commodores.
"Our guys kind of lost their spirit because we werenâ€™t playing well offensively, which led to not playing well defensively," Ray said on Monday's Southeastern Conference teleconference.
The Bulldogs fell behind 15-2 early in the game and didn't make their first field goal until the 8:50 mark.
Vanderbilt went on to beat MSU 72-31.
"I thought we came out and really played well in the first 4 to 6 minutes defensively and then they started to set a high-ball screen and we really didnâ€™t get that stopped at all, which led to them getting a lot of offensive rebounds," Ray said. "The biggest thing is I thought we had some decent looks at the basket offensively for the first 4 to 6 minutes of the game that simply couldnâ€™t go down."
The Bulldogs have lost 12-straight SEC games after opening up 2-0 in the league. MSU beat South Carolina at home and then went to Georgia and picked up a road win.
The struggles on the offensive end seem to be what has hurt the Bulldogs most during the 12-game losing streak.
â€śWhen youâ€™re dealing with a young and inexperienced team, they kind of live through their offense at times," Ray said. "I donâ€™t think this is just our basketball team, but this is the deal with any young men that are playing competitive basketball. When things are going well for them offensively, they really compete and defend for you on the defensive end. When youâ€™re having the offensive struggles that we have, like against Missouri and against Vanderbilt, when youâ€™re constantly coming down and youâ€™re not seeing the ball go through the hoop, itâ€™s hard for you to have that competitive spirit on the defensive end. Ultimately what you would like to do is have a team that can persevere through some offensive struggles, but itâ€™s just commonplace in college basketball for guys to live through their offense.â€ť
Mississippi State plays two of the better teams this week. It travels to Kentucky on Wednesday and hosts in-state rival Ole Miss on Saturday.
Auburn makes the trip to Alabama and Tennessee hosts Florida today. Along with MSU traveling to Kentucky, Wednesday features Arkansas at LSU, Ole Miss hosting Texas A&M and Georgia traveling to Vanderbilt. On Thursday, Missouri will travel to South Carolina.
Other than Ole Miss at MSU, Saturday features Florida hosting Alabama, Tennessee at Georgia, Arkansas at home against Kentucky, LSU is on the road at Missouri, Texas A&M hosts South Carolina and Auburn is at home against Vanderbilt.
to continue at Kentucky
MSU sophomore forward Roquez Johnson was suspended last week by Ray for a violation of team rules.
He missed the Alabama game and the Vanderbilt game. His suspension will carry on for at least one more game.
"As far as Roquez Johnson, he will definitely not be playing at Kentucky and when we get back, we'll determine the status as far as far as what we'll do in the next game," Ray said in his Monday press conference at Humphrey Coliseum.
Volunteers look to stretch
5-game winning streak
The Tennessee Volunteers have been playing some of their best basketball here in the last few weeks.
The Vols (16-10, 8-6) have won their last five games. They have beaten South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, LSU and Texas A&M in four overtimes during the stretch.
"We are coming off a tough, tough win at A&M," Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "(In) four overtimes, (we) found a way to get out of there with a win."
The Vols put that win streak on the line today when they host No. 8 (Associated Press) Florida (22-4, 12-2). Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN.
"(Florida is a) talented team," Martin said. "(Florida has) all the parts to be a final four team and ultimately win it. (They have a) great coaching staff (that puts) themselves in a tremendous position to be successful."
The Gators two losses in SEC play have come on the road. They were blown out at Arkansas and let one slip away at Missouri.
Florida is in first place in the league.
"They score the ball from the perimeter, they dribble penetrate and they throw the ball down inside," Martin said. "They have so many moving parts within that offense. It's one of those teams where you have to identify five guys on the floor at all times. In most cases, you have two or three guys. They have five guys you have to identify. It's easier said than done to stop those guys."
players of the week
Tennessee's Trae Golden and Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein were selected as the SEC Players of the Week.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior Golden earned Player of the Week after averaging 26 points, six assists and 3.5 rebounds in wins over LSU and Texas A&M in College Station, Tex.
Golden scored a career-high 32 points in a four-overtime win at Texas A&M.
The 7-foot, 244-pound freshman Cauley-Stein earned SEC Freshman of the Week. Cauley-Stein averaged 13.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and five blocks in wins over Vanderbilt and Missouri.
He scored a career-high 20 points against the Commodores.
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