Steele Finds His Shot; Can Bulldogs Follow Suit?

Next game: Alabama (9-6, 1-1 SEC) at MSU (7-7, 2-0), Wednesday, 8 p.m., CSS (Matt Stewart play-by-play, Kyle Macey analyst)

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Good morning, readers. Lovely day in North Mississippi, ain’t it? (No it’s not.) Hopefully you’ve got a copy of today’s Journal on you, but if not, I gladly give you linkage to some quality reading.

In today’s edition is a basketball notebook, covering Jalen SteeleCraig Sword and MSU’s improved shooting. Speaking of the shooting, one wonders whether it will continue. After going 0 for 10 from 3-point range against South Carolina – and winning anyway – MSU hit 9 of 20 at Georgia. Pretty impressive for a young team on the road. Of course, Steele hit four of those, so it certainly helps to have him back in form.

In the four games since his return, Steele has made 37.8 percent (17 of 45) of his 3-point shots. Some of the other guys are still trying to find their stroke, like freshman Fred Thomas. He hit 2 of 5 from downtown at Georgia, so that’s encouraging, but he’s still made only 23.9 percent on the season. Colin Borchert is 17.4 percent from 3-point range; he was 1 of 3 versus UGA.

As we all know, Sword has picked up his game of late, and he hit 2 of 3 from behind the arc on Saturday, pushing him all the way up to 20 percent on the season. As a team, MSU has made 27.8 percent of its 3-point attempts, which ranks last in the SEC.

Coach Rick Ray believes his team’s improved shooting at Georgia was due in part to better execution of the motion offense.

“I thought in the first half we took some shots that were hurried, and we didn’t trust the motion offense,” Ray said. “I thought in the second half we really trusted the motion offense, and we moved and cut and screened probably about as good as we’ve ever done here. … But I thought more importantly, when the shot clock started winding down, our guys didn’t panic. They continued to cut and screen and move, and some good things happened late in the shot clock because of that reason.”

What’s interesting is that while Ray is still trying to teach the motion offense to this young team, the major emphasis right now is on defense. The Bulldogs are allowing 62.5 points per game, eighth in the SEC. During this three-game winning streak, that average is 53.7 ppg.

“That’s all we do, we practice defense,” Ray said, and Sword echoed those words.

“Really all we work on is defense,” Sword said. “We don’t even worry about offense, because everybody on our team can play offense. That’s all coach preaches about is defense. If we play defense, we’ll win.”

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04). I'm working on a recipe for bacon-flavored coffee, which would solve all the world's problems.

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