Struggling teams meet in Baton Rouge

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

BATON ROUGE – Trent Johnson believes Rick Stansbury is the right man for the job.
That is, the LSU coach believes his counterpart can straighten out the mess that Mississippi State basketball has turned into. From the brawl in Hawaii to Renardo Sidney’s erratic play to shutting down his players’ Twitter pages, Stansbury has had a career’s worth of adversity to deal with this season.
The Bulldogs (11-10, 3-4 SEC) will try – once again – to put the turmoil behind and move forward when it visits LSU (10-12, 2-5) today for a 3 p.m. tip.
“All I know is coach Stansbury has been doing it a long, long time,” Johnson said. “He’s found a way to get things corrected and get things worked out and win his share of games. I think whatever’s going on over there, they’ve got the right man handling that deal.”
The most recent drama occurred after Wednesday’s 75-61 loss at Alabama, when senior Ravern Johnson posted a message on his Twitter page that was critical of Stansbury, who on Thursday banned his players from using the micro-blogging website.
Johnson was subsequently suspended for today’s game.
He scored only 10 points against Alabama, and his struggles have been just one of many issues holding MSU back. The Bulldogs are rebounding poorly, aren’t shooting 3-pointers very well and don’t have a productive bench, to name a few.
State has lost three of its last four games and is a longshot to win the Western Division.
Somehow, the Bulldogs must shed their burdens and move forward.
“We can’t sit there and let this game be a game where we just put our heads down,” point guard Dee Bost said after the Alabama loss. “We’ve got to get back up and keep fighting.”
Today presents a good opportunity for MSU to bounce back against an LSU team that has had its own struggles.
The Tigers have lost five in a row, most recently a 64-56 setback to South Carolina on Wednesday. It was their highest point total during this current skid, in which they’re shooting 32.7 percent from the field.
LSU is last in the league in scoring at 63.1 points per game.
“It’s real interesting because we’re putting ourselves in the same situation over and over again,” Trent Johnson said. “A lot of it has to do with your ability to concentrate in the heat of battle – the heat of a contest – and that’s where the word frustration lies for me and the word accountability lies for them.
“Until we can play through those things, you’re going to see all the inconsistencies that you see.”
This is Johnson’s third season at the helm in Baton Rouge, and after winning the SEC two years ago, it’s been a constant struggle for his team. The Tigers went 11-20 overall and 2-14 in the SEC.
The players, however, are quick to put the blame upon themselves.
“The coaches can’t play for us,” said point guard Andre Stringer, one of three freshmen who start for LSU. “It’s up to the players in that locker room. Coach is giving us direction. We have to take it.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571
or brad.locke@journalinc.com.