Howland hoping for continued improvement

Mississippi State is off to just a 2-3 start to the season under new head coach Ben Howland. Howland hopes to see his team continue to improve as it gets healthier. He met with the media on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Bulldogs’ trip to Puerto Rico, their upcoming game against UT Martin and also addressed Demetrius Houston, Aric Holman and Elijah Staley.

Opening Statement…

“In terms of three games in four days, I’m sorry none of you got to go. You might have enjoyed going to Puerto Rico. I got the chance to watch the last 20 minutes of our football game. That had to be thrilling to be there and to be apart of that. That was unbelievable. I was so excited. We were all watching it and just jumping for joy when we blocked the kick. That kid will always be a hero now in the history of Mississippi State. Anyways, back to us. We really lost to a great team in Miami. Totally outclassed the tournament. I was looking at the coaches’ poll today and I can see about eight or nine teams ahead of them that they are better than in my mind for sure. I think that they are a top 10 team. We still played very poorly against them. It wasn’t even a contest. I thought we played much better against Texas Tech, even thought we had the same issues about not being able to stay out of foul trouble with our man defense. So we had to play zone that second half. We had great opportunities to win that game, up four with the ball. Having a chance to go up five. Chicken [Craig Sword] had a shot to the basket that, instead of shooting left handed I wish he had came back with the right and got fouled. It was a foul waiting to happen. We had a play where we’re up three and ball is going out of bounds and we saved it then they hit a three off that same possession. It was just a multitude of things that went wrong. There was a bad foul by Gavin (Ware) that we talked about with him. Up and down one with the ball to turn in to a flagrant one and they shoot. All the mistakes we could make, we did. Texas Tech is a solid team. I thought we played our best half of the year on Sunday against Missouri State. The first half we really played well. We played very unselfishly which is a key for us offensively. I thought we really shared the basketball, made the extra pass and good solid man-to-man defense. Other than the 32 percent form the field without fouling. I think we made a positive step that day. This week these practices leading up to UT Martin are to try and build on that step and also to understand all the areas we need to get better at, which number one is defensively. We are still making mistakes in transitions not knowing who is suppose to be back. That is why it’s tough to play a tournament like that so early in the season. I would have preferred to not play three games in four days because you aren’t making a lot of corrections, especially when you’re playing back-to-back games. You are just trying to prepare the best you can.”

On Malik Newman getting extended minutes and judging where he is right now…

“I thought that it was really tough to throw him into the Southern game the way we did with just one practice under his belt after being out three weeks. I thought throughout the tournament he got better with each opportunity.  I thought he played his best against Missouri State and actually made three big shots in the second half when they cut our 18-point lead at the half down to four. I thought he made some really nice passes too. We had 20 assists for the game and only 10 turnovers. That is the kind of numbers we want to have. Overall I thought Malik improved with each game. I think he is getting into better shape. This is a big week and now he’s back.”

On how big today’s practice is to work on defensive issues…

“It’s big for us. We are staying here as a team tomorrow. We are going to have Thanksgiving dinner together as a group. We will have a short practice on Friday because it’s a noon game Saturday. These practices are very important to us moving forward. We have to grow from them.”

On an update for Demetrius Houston…

“Status is the same right now, suspended indefinitely.”

On an update Aric Holman’s progress…

“According to our trainer, we are hoping he will be out on the court trying to do some stuff without contact by December 7. That is the target to get him back out there and have him go through stuff. He actually went through some shooting and stuff like that with the team in Puerto Rico on shootaround day. Right now I still think he is weeks away from playing with contact. I am just hoping he can get healthy enough where he can start practicing again. That itself would be a blessing for us to have another body out there that can help us. He is a great kid.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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