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 excited going into the (SEC) Tournament. We were in a downward spiral a little bit there losing five games. Three of those games were against good competition against quality opponents like Ole Miss, Arkansas and Kentucky. I was disappointed with our defensive performance on the road at South Carolina and Vanderbilt. We gave up 81 points to South Carolina then had a 10-point loss at Vanderbilt.
“I wanted to get back to our identity which is defense. I wanted to do a really good job and focus in on that against Missouri and held them to 43 points. We did a very good job. I don’t believe they scored consecutive baskets the whole game. Obviously holding them under 50 is the lowest point total in the SEC for our team since 2008.
“We’re getting ready for a good Auburn team, who played really well against Georgia. They pose a different type of deal because of the way they play not wanting you to get the ball inbounds and press. We’re getting ready to play one of the better players in the SEC in KT Harrell and also Cinmeon Bowers in the post. We’ve got to be able to guard him without fouling.
Who are some of the best defensive players in the SEC?
Ray: “It’s pretty obvious that Willie Cauley-Stein is probably the best defensive player in the country with the way he can affect the game. I think people just look at his blocked shots but to me what makes him a special defender is the way he can switch ball screens and guard anybody in the nation. He can play the five and guard the four. He can switch off on a ball screen and guard the point guard too.
“Athletic ability is measured these days by the ability to run and jump but his lateral quickness is what makes him special. I think he’s the best defender in our league and really the best defender in the country.
“Then you look at a Jordan Mickey with the way he affects your shot at the rim and his ability to block a shot and alter shots. I think that’s something that’s really special. When it’s all said and done, he’s not a 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 guy. He’s probably all of 6-foot-8. So he does a really good job of being a rim protector for them.
“As far as an on the ball defender, it’s really hard to measure that these days because of the way things are closely guarded with fouls. I think Josh Richardson, even though they are in that zone at Tennessee, you can tell how solid a defender he was. I’d probably have to single him out.”