Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray joined the rest of the league’s coaches on the SEC teleconference Monday morning.
Ray spent four minutes answering questions from the media. The following is a transcript of the call…
Ray: “I thought we had a pretty good week opening up SEC play. I thought we really played well in the first half at Kentucky but simply couldn’t sustain that in the second half. I thought our guys found a way to deal with adversity. I think we’ve been very poor in the past when other teams go on a run, hit us in the mouth and we really don’t respond.
“It was the first time we’ve really played well and reacted well to adversity against a quality team like Ole Miss. Now we’ve got to bring our kids back down to earth and make them realize there are more games to be played. It’s going to be a tough environment in Tuscaloosa and a tough game at Alabama. They do some things that we struggle with. They press in the full court and turn the ball over and they play some zone and obviously we struggle against the zone because of our shooting woes. But we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
After seeing the postgame video the other day, how would you describe some of your dance moves?
Ray: “I tell you what, our guys were excited for two reasons. First they beat their rival and second and most importantly, we surpassed how many wins we had all of last season. The guys came in and started blasting the music and were dancing. It got me hyped up there for a minute and I had some flashbacks of my 20’s.”
What are your impressions of Kentucky?
Ray: “They are a very talented ball club. They’ve got some outstanding recruits and are starting to figure each other out as a team which is a dangerous thing. We all know they have a lot of individual talent but now they’re starting to figure out how that individual talent plays as a team and starting to gel. Once they figure that out that’s when Kentucky really starts to get dangerous because I don’t think there’s anybody in our league that can match their individual talent.”
What’s it like playing against a team that has seven McDonald’s All-Americans?
Ray: “It’s not a great feeling but this is what we get paid to do. We get paid to game plan and figure out a way for our team to win. We showed in that first half that we were prepared and our guys believed in what we were doing in our game plan to be successful. We just didn’t have the bodies with only eight scholarship guys to sustain it.”
Has Craig Sword improved his free throw shooting since league play started?
Ray: “As a team our free throw percentage has jumped eight percent in these past four games. I think in league play Craig is 24-of-28 which is about 86 percent compared to where he had been which is about 64 percent. He’s made a tremendous jump in his free throw shooting. What has helped is that while we were out of school, we brought our guys back for a second practice which consisted of a lot of shots and free throws. Guys were shooting at least 150 free throws a day. I think the break from class and allowing to bring your guys back for a second practice has really helped us at the free throw line and obviously has helped Craig individually.”
Are there any stipulations when you are practicing free throws?
Ray: “We’ve always done that. If we have a practice and shoot 15 free throws during that five minute break you have to make 12. If we shoot 10, you have to make eight. The bottom line is you have to make 80 percent of your free throws or you have to run right when we get done with that five minute break. You just don’t get enough free throws in those breaks in a practice session. I think the biggest thing is bringing them back and letting them shoot thousands of free throws.”