Mississippi State assistant basketball coach Chris Hollender pinch hit for Rick Ray on this week’s SEC Coaches Teleconference while Ray was in Jackson attending the Howell and Gillom Trophy presentations at the Mississippi Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.
The Bulldogs travel to Georgia on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for their final road game of the year.
Here is a transcript of what Hollender had to say…
Hollender: “I think we’re all obviously disappointed in how we played on Saturday. I think we did some good things. Our guys had a good couple of days of practice and we came into the game and got off to a really good start. We actually shot the ball from 3 better than we have all year. But there was a couple of lulls in the game for us where (Missouri) went on a couple of runs that really separated them and put them over the top.
“Obviously we were without Craig Sword and our starting point guard I.J. Ready was a game-time decision with a slight injury. So we were a little down personnel-wise but I thought our guys really came out and tried except for a couple of lulls there in the first and in the second half where they got some separation from us. I thought they came out and tried to execute for us.”
What have you seen from South Carolina and their freshman Sindarius Thornwell?
Hollender: “Obviously South Carolina is coming off a great win on Saturday. Thornwell is as good a freshman as there is. I believe he’s the second leading freshman scorer in the league. South Carolina really takes a lot of pride in who they are and they games that you see them play, they really stay with who they are.
“They played a little bit of zone when I saw them play against Georgia for the most part. They’ve really been getting better and better as the season’s gone on. I hear comments from the announcers and their coach (Frank Martin) about how his team keeps coming to work every day and you can see that with the progress that they’ve been making.
“Thornwell is a good player who can score from a lot of areas. He’s physical and does a great job of getting to the foul line. There’s a lot of respect from both teams. They’ve gone through it and we’ve gone through it but all you can worry about is today and they’re trying to find a way to get better every day.”
How is I.J. Ready doing?
Hollender: “I.J.’s day-to-day. He’s fought injuries all year whether it’s a concussion, knee injury or hamstring. Before the game he felt great and goes out there and makes a couple of plays. There was a certain play in the second half where he jumped up to try and catch a pass and tweaked his knee a little bit. That’s just where he is physically.
“He’s doing everything he’s supposed to be doing off the court to get better. I think it’s just been a frustrating, up-and-down year for him physically. He’ll start getting better and then all of a sudden he’ll have a setback. They’re not major setbacks. Obviously the concussion against Alabama was a freak accident where he hit his head on the floor and this knee injury has been nagging him a little bit.
“But it hasn’t been to the point where it’s totally kept him out. He’s a tough kid who’s always wanting to play and get back in there. We’re monitoring him day-to-day and trying to keep him as healthy as we can for that deal.”
Your last road win came at Georgia last year. How do you reproduce what happened there last year?
Hollender: “I think what you have to do is come in and take care of today. Our guys have been coming in and doing a good job at practice, staying with it and working for coach. You can’t talk about road wins, you just talk about getting better at what you do.
“Obviously Georgia has been playing very well here in SEC play. You’ve just got to make a point to them that we’ve got two games left here and we have to do everything we can to go in there, fight and get a win.”
Would Alabama’s record prevent you from voting Trevor Releford for player of the year?
Hollender: “I don’t look at those things and have no idea. I know Trevor Releford has had a fantastic season. I heard coach (Anthony Grant) talk about how he’s really improved his perimeter scoring shooting the basketball. Through some adversity he’s been able to find a way to keep fighting for his team.
“Moving forward, I think he’s a great player. I really don’t know how to answer that question. I think he’s obviously one of the top guards in this league and is a very good scorer. He might be the best finisher in the league on the move to the basket. With his improved shooting, I think he’s become one of the best guards in our league.”