Howland expects a challenge at Ole Miss

Mississippi State coach Ben Howland picked up his first conference win against Ole Miss, winning 83-77 in Starkville on Jan. 23. The Bulldogs now have to make the return trip to Oxford to face the Rebels on Wednesday. Howland spoke about the challenges of facing a healthy Ole Miss team this time around.

On emotions for team heading into Ole Miss game…

“We haven’t had practice yet so I haven’t seen our guys since after the game. I can’t say what the emotion of the team is. Obviously it’s in-state rivals. It’s Ole Miss and Mississippi State. It’s a big deal. It’s a big game.”

On Ole Miss having a healthy roster for this contest…

“It makes them a lot better. Those are their two leading scorers (Stefan Moody and Sebastian Saiz) and then (Martavious) Newby is their second leading offensive rebounder. Ole Miss is good. They’re well-coached and they’re tough.”

On Malik Newman’s response from being out…

“I watched the film from the game and I thought his defense is continuing to improve. You could see that his timing (on his shot) was off. Anytime your first shot is an air ball or an air bank I think it takes away a little bit of your confidence. He came last night and shot. All three freshmen were in here last night working on their shots. As a coach I love to hear that. They’re doing it on their own. Obviously his back is getting better.”

On the seniors’ legacy shaping the program’s foundation…

“I’m really excited about how our seniors play, all five of them. Travis (Daniels) is playing the toughest he’s ever played in his career right now. Chicken (Craig Sword) is playing really good at both ends of the floor. I’m really proud of his leadership. Gavin (Ware) is obviously our best post player and I was excited today that his weight was down lower than what it was last week at this time. I thought Fred (Thomas) had his best game by far of conference play on Saturday. I thought he and Johnny (Zuppardo) did a good job. Johnny gave some important minutes and played as good as he could play. Everybody has limitations, but we’re getting the most out of them.”

On when the seniors’ play started to click…

Probably five or six games in the conference (schedule). I’ve been pushing way harder as I’ve gotten to know them better. I’ve been pushing hard to get our very best everyday.”

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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