Mississippi State’s season hasn’t gone the way many expected in Ben Howland‘s first year at the helm.
The Bulldogs are only 10-14 overall and sit 12th in the SEC standings with a 3-9 mark within league play.
But MSU is not ready to turn the page to next season just yet. The Bulldogs have six games remaining before the conference tournament and will use that time to try and better their seeding in hopes of extending the season further.
“There’s still hope and still light at the end of the tunnel,” said MSU guard Malik Newman. “Once the SEC Tournament starts, that’s when things get back serious for us. But right now we’re looking at it as trying to get a higher seed.”
Howland inherited a less than ideal situation from Rick Ray, who was fired after three straight losing seasons. Four scholarship players have transferred since his hire including two after the season started.
For Howland, his initial year has been focused more on the principles he wants within his program than wins and losses.
“We would have liked to have won more games obviously,” Howland said. “Our lack of depth has really been an issue from the beginning. But what I wanted to was start putting my imprint on this program. We’re building things from the ground up. I think we’ve imprinted an attitude, a work ethic and the types of kids we’re going to build this program with.”
Tonight the Bulldogs will close out a three-game homestand with Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. on SEC Network.
The Commodores have dominated the overall series 77-47 but State has been able to maintain a 32-23 edge at home. The Bulldogs have won 11 of the last 15 contests against Vandy at Humphrey Coliseum.
The two teams split last year’s meetings with Mississippi State winning 57-54 at home and the Commdores returning the favor 66-56 in Nashville.
Vanderbilt (15-10, 7-5 SEC) has won seven of its last 10 games including back-to-back victories over Missouri and Auburn entering tonight.
“They’re just super impressive and well coached at both ends of the floor,” Howland said. “They are a great defensive team and a very skilled offensive team that can score inside as well as shoot the ball out from the perimeter. They have great balance. They’re an NCAA Tournament team.”
Sophomore guard Wade Baldwin IV paces the Commodores with 14.5 points while 7-foot junior center Damian Jones adds 13.6 points in the post.
MSU features four starters scoring double figures led by senior forward Gavin Ware‘s 16 points per game. However, the Bulldogs could be without senior forward Travis Daniels for tonight’s game. Daniels suffered a sprained ankle in Saturday’s 66-57 loss to Arkansas and did not practice on Monday.