Mississippi State’s Rick Ray joined the rest of the league’s coaches on the SEC men’s basketball teleconference on Monday to discuss the Bulldogs recent performances and preview its match-ups this week.
Here is a transcript of Ray’s time on the call…
Ray: “We’re getting prepared for Texas A&M, a bunch that’s played arguably the two best defensive teams in the SEC thus far. I just got done watching film against them versus Kentucky. They’re a really sound ball club. They do a really good job on the defensive end packing it in and making you take challenged shots. They’re going to mix it up between a man and a zone so we’ve got to find a way to make some things in transition before they set their defense.
“We’ve also got to knock down some shots obviously and try to get back to what we’ve been doing beforehand and get some inside touches for our post guys.
“We’re coming off a tough week where I thought we did what we wanted to against Tennessee as far as getting paint touches and getting to the free throw line 44 times. We held them to 35 percent from the field and played a 10 minute stretch without giving up a field goal. We just didn’t knock down our free throws and spotted them a 12-0 lead to start the game.
“We went down to Florida and just didn’t play well down there. We’ve got to get back to playing well and hopefully that happens Tuesday at Texas A&M.
Can you talk about your bench play over the last three games? They’ve scored 86 points during that stretch.
Ray: “Really that’s a byproduct of our three leading scorers on the team coming off the bench for us. That’s to be expected a little bit. We changed things around and will continue to change things around with our starting lineup.
“When it’s all said and done it really doesn’t matter because our guys coming off the bench end up playing starter minutes. We’ve got 10 guys capable of going out there and being productive for us. It’s good to have some guys who can come off the bench and score but we’ve got to do something with our starting lineup that also gives us some production on the offensive end to start the game too.”
What are the challenges of demanding more improvement while also not trying to beat down the guys when things aren’t going as well as you’d like?
Ray: “It’s a tough thing for any coach to manage because you want to be demanding of your guys and want to be getting your guys better. But you’ve also got to be sensitive to the fact that you can’t tear your guys down both physically or mentally.
“The fortunate thing here is when you have this semester break, guys don’t have class so that’s a time to get better. You can spend more time in the film room and meeting with your guys individually. It’s not just all basketball on the court where you can get better. Hopefully we took advantage of that time and guys got better individually and also as a team.
“But you want results at the end of the day. I think there’s some guys who have gotten better individually and some things we’ve gotten better with team-wise.
“But at the end of the day we’ve got to be a much more productive team offensively. I think now some of our offensive woes are starting to affect our defense. If we can just take better care of the basketball. We have our offensive shooting woes but it pales in comparision with the way we don’t take care of the basketball.”
Anything you can put your finger on with the turnovers?
Ray: “I think we can learn some things from the team we just got through playing, Florida. Those guys have quality ball players on their team. They’ve got guys who can shoot the basketball but they’re willing to share the basketball and make you play defense for the whole shot clock. That’s something to be appreciated.
“I told our team before and after the game that Florida forces you to play the whole shot clock on the offensive end. They share the basketball well and I think they’re the best passing team in college basketball. They’re arguably the best help defense team in college basketball.
“They make you use the shot clock and that’s something we’ve got to get better at. When we get something in transition we’ve got to take advantage of that and I think sometimes that’s our best opportunity to score. But if there’s nothing there, we’ve got to be willing to pass up what looks like an open shot and make that extra pass to get a better shot. I think that’s one way we can help our offense.”