Ray on SEC Teleconference: Arkansas Press Tough to Simulate

In case you didn’t get enough of Rick Ray this morning, he was also on the SEC coaches teleconference. I also listened in to Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, because MSU will be in Fayetteville on Wednesday to take on the Hogs (8 p.m., CSS).

Here’s the Ray transcript.

Opening comment:

I’m obviously disappointed with the two losses that we had this week. I feel a couple of things with our team right now. One is our post guys continually get in early foul trouble, which puts us in a bind because we’ve only got eight players as it is. When we have two of our post players get in early foul trouble, we end up playing really small, and that really just kills us as far as rebounding and offensive rebounds. The second thing is we’re giving up too many points. In order for us to win ballgames, these two teams that we played, both Tennessee and Alabama, have been in the 70s. When we win, we hold people in the 50s and lower 60s. Because we struggle offensively – that’s not anything new. We’ve just got to make sure we’re doing our part on the defensive end. Those are the two things we need to focus in on at this point and time.

Some teams use six or seven guys on defense to prep for the Arkansas press, obviously you can’t, so how do you prepare for it?

We have all our time just having five guys out there, let alone six or seven. It’s going to be difficult for us to simulate what Arkansas is going to bring with their pressure defense with all their different presses. We’re trying to find a way with managers, athletic trainers, coaches and things like that just to get bodies out on the court to try to simulate that. Even with those guys being out there, the problem is still simulating what Arkansas does with their length and athleticism with those pressures. At the end of the day, we’re not going to be able to simulate what Arkansas is going to do with the pressing. We’ve got to really just concentrate on our guys getting better when we do our drills that we do against the press, whether it be two-on-one or three-on-two, and getting our guys to handle the basketball versus pressure.

How concerned are you about Arkansas wearing you down?

It’s a concern with anybody that we play, because no matter who we’re playing, we’re going to have a short bench compared to theirs. But it can be doubly more so with Arkansas’ pressure. It’s going to be a concern for us. Our thing is, we’ve got to make sure that we’re not rushing to try and break the press. What I mean by that is, we need to take our time inbounding the basketball and not be in a rush, because you’re not going to get any fast break points against their press. What we’ve got to do is make sure we break the press and not turn the all over. That’ll be our biggest concern, is not turning the ball over, and then we can get into our halfcourt offense and just play from there. But if we worry about trying to break the press and go score, we’ll have problems, because that’s what we did against Alabama, and that was a big struggle for us.

Arkansas is struggling to score, so do you think you have a shot to keep them low?

The tempo is really going be dictated more so by what we do offensively. Defensively we’re not going to change what we’re doing. We’re always going to try to hold people within those 50s and 60s range. Things will be predicated by how we handle the basketball offensively. If we’re turning the basketball over and not defensively rebounding the basketball, then that’s just going to give Arkansas more offensive possessions, thus they’re going to have a chance to score more points. For us to dictate tempo, we’ve got to make sure we take care of the basketball and not get beat on the boards.

How do you have quality practices without wearing guys out?

It’s really a fine line and a catch-22 in all sorts of ways. We want to make sure our guys are getting better in practice but we’ve also got to make sure we’re not being stupid and over-exerting our guys, too. So, what we’ve tried to do is really work on our individual game. When we do some things in a team setting, we do a lot of things as far as how we’re going to score in our offense in individual work. We’ll take a guy while the rest of the team is shooting free throws or working on aspects of offense or defense, and work on our individual game. I think it does two things: first of all it shows our guys we’re continuing to try to get better and improve. The second thing is it doesn’t wear our guys out with smashmouth, five-on-five basketball the whole situation.

How has Jalen Steele played and your freshmen?

Jalen is really our only guy with experience. If you eliminate Jalen Steele from our lineup, we return 1 point and 30 minutes of experience. We were playing a stretch there without Wendell Lewis and Jalen Steele, where we had a situation where we had 1 returning point and 30 minutes of experience. To say he was our only experienced guy is kind of an understatement. But the thing Jalen provides for us is, first of all, he’s a great shooter. When you have a guy who can shoot the basketball like that, you can do some things within your motion offense to try to get him shots. Even more importantly, he provides spacing on the court because now the rest of the team can play basketball because no one is going to leave Jalen Steele out on the perimeter. Guys like Gavin Ware will have some sort of motion opportunity; guys like Roquez Johnson and Craig Sword will have opportunities to drive the basketball.

With our freshmen, I’m really pleased those guys continue to progress. They probably shouldn’t be playing as many minutes at this point in time in their careers but the thing I’m happy with is they continue to improve. Craig Sword, in SEC play right now, is the leading scorer for all freshmen. And that’s with him fouling out in five games. So, he’s getting better. Fred Thomas is starting to make more shots now and Gavin Ware has to be the one who takes that next step to become the better play because now teams our focusing in on him and his inside play. He’s got to be able to score against that secondary defender.

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Now, here’s the Anderson transcript.

Opening comment:

It’s a big week for us coming off a tough loss to Ole Miss. With that being said, we’re trying to find some consistency in terms of shooting the ball better and getting the tempo more up to how we want to play. Defensively we’ve been doing some good things, but as you can see, you also need to score points. You’ve got to score points, and we haven’t been scoring as many points as I would like to. I would like to see our bench get engaged and get more involved in what we’re doing.

How do you manage the attitude of guys when a team is undermanned while trying to play up-tempo?

Sometimes you’ve got to make adjustments. I don’t think when you’re playing pressure defense or up-tempo, it’s not feast or famine, and I think you’ve got to make sure your guys understand that. The more you get into conference play, teams are going to be familiar with you. With that being said, I’ve always been of the mindset of we want to be unpredictable. You don’t know when and where it’s going to take place or how it’s going to take place. That’s been my philosophy from the standpoint of making the subtle adjustments, and at the same time continue to do what you do. You’ve got to make sure your players understand it’s not feast or famine. You’re not going to steal the ball. Basically what we do is about disruption; we want to disrupt you on offense and hopefully create some offense for us from our defense.

Generating good offense with limited numbers:

That’s dealing with personnel. Last year with the team I had, we were limited in what we could do. I thought our guys gave me everything they had, and they hit that wall. And we had some injuries along the way. Therefore, if we don’t have the injuries, we’re 16-6 at one point in time with a chance to really improve, and we had some guys go down. (Michael) Sanchez went down, Marvell Waithe went down, and you don’t have Marshawn Powell. So you’re kind of limited from that standpoint. But again, I can’t say for somebody else what’s best for them. It’s just the personnel that you have. 

Have you ever seen a roster situation like MSU’s?

I haven’t. I’ve talked to some guys that have, and they’ve had some guys… At one point in time I was at Missouri, we were so limited on the roster we had coach T.J. Cleveland to dress out. It’s pretty tough. It’s been a pretty tough go there. And it’s been a very unusual situation for Rick I’m sure, coming in. That’s a tough call there. That’s a tough situation. You just work the best you can. Obviously you can’t burn your guys out. You’ve got to have them prepared, but you can’t burn them out because you’re so limited from that standpoint.

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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