Mississippi State’s Ben Howland 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 Howland’s time on the call…
“We’ve got a very, very tough game coming up next. Every game in this league is extremely tough. This is my first time going through the SEC and I’ve been so impressed with our conference and just how talented each team is and how well coached they are.
“We are playing against our arch-rival which is a very good team. The first time that we met here at home in Starkville they were shorthanded with three starters out – (Stefan) Moody and (Sebastian) Saiz, their two leading scorers. One of their tougher kids and a really good offensive rebounder (Martavious) Newby was also out. They are at full strength now.
“That game that we played here in Starkville could have gone either way. We were fortunate to actually win the game and that was our first conference win. I think we’ve improved from that point and we’re obviously going to be in for the test of our lives against Ole Miss on the road.”
Talk a little bit about the turnaround your team has made over the last few weeks.
Howland: “I’m pleased with how our defense has evolved. We’re getting better defensively and everything starts at that end of the floor. It’s really nice to see how hard our guys are trying at that end.
“We’re trying to play all nine guys and keep everybody fresh so we can try our very hardest at the defensive end of the floor. That’s what’s made the difference for us. We are finally really competing at that end which is what you have to do night in and night out to have a chance in a great conference.”
What do you think of the job Alabama’s Avery Johnson has done this season?
Howland: “I think he’s done a terrific job. There wasn’t a lot of expectations. They were going to be a really good team and are right on the cusp of getting into the NCAA Tournament. I think they are a tournament team.
“I especially love their point guard (Retin) Obasohan. That kid is a great competitor and great leader. When you listen to him talk during interviews, he’s obviously very bright and very intelligent. He’s a kid that’s made a huge jump from his junior year where he averaged 12 points a game to what he is now which is an all-league player in the SEC and one of the best players in our conference. Being from Belgium, he’s going to make a lot of money over in Europe. A lot of money. He is really, really good.
“Then you look at (Jimmie) Taylor and how he’s evolved. He’s a very improved player and has improved throughout the year. (Arthur) Edwards, the kids they picked up from New Mexico as a transfer, has been a godsend. I don’t think he had double figures one time at New Mexico and he’s had double figures over a dozen times for them this year at Alabama. The three man for them (Riley Norris) is a good player. They’re a problem.”