Mississippi State is still a work in progress.
Although the Bulldogs have played better basketball of late, the team is still learning how to close out games. MSU let an eight point lead slip away against Georgia last weekend and squandered a 13-point advantage at Ole Miss on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs (9-11, 2-5) get another test today hosting LSU at 1 p.m. on the SEC Network.
“We’re past the point of moral victories,” said MSU coach Rick Ray. “We want to win. So for in order for this program to take the next step, we’ve got to win games like that. We can’t be satisfied with being in them.”
The Bulldogs committed 27 fouls which resulted in the Rebels shooting 29-of-37 from the free throw line. State on the other hand was only 6-of-11 from the charity stripe in that outing.
“When it’s all said and done, we’ve got to get stops down the stretch,” Ray said. “We didn’t do that. If we want to be better against Georgia or on the road against Ole Miss, we’ve got to get stops and we’ve got to do it without fouling.”
Junior guard Craig Sword scored a season-high 27 points against Ole Miss going 10-of-13 from the field including five 3-pointers. Sword has been battling his way back to form from offseason back surgery.
Sword’s career-best performance came against LSU last season where he poured in 33 points. But despite his efforts, the Bulldogs fell 92-81 in Baton Rouge. It was the fourth straight win for LSU in the series.
The Tigers have not defeated Mississippi State five consecutive times since claiming six straight wins from 1985-87.
Although LSU coach Johnny Jones owns a 3-1 record against the Bulldogs, he is not taking them lightly entering today’s game.
“We know they are a very capable scoring team,” Jones said. “They are very tough defensively. They play hard-nosed. They rebound. We know we are in for another competitive SEC battle.”
The Tigers are off to a 5-2 start in the SEC and 16-4 overall. LSU has reeled off three straight victories including a 64-58 home win over South Carolina on Wednesday.
The Tigers are led by a pair of sophomore forwards Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey. Martin paces the team with 16.7 points while Mickey is averaging a double-double with 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds.
LSU junior point guard Josh Gray originally signed with the Bulldogs under Rick Stansbury in the fall of 2011 but was released from his letter of intent when Ray was hired the following spring. Gray is third in the SEC dishing out 4.7 assists.