By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Last time on the court, Rick Ray saw his Mississippi State team lacking in confidence, and in their time of struggle the players turned to a selfish form of play.
Ray hopes it was a one-time thing.
The Bulldogs (7-11, 2-4 SEC) will try to fix those issues and snap a four-game losing skid when Texas A&M (12-7, 2-4) visits Humphrey Coliseum tonight.
MSU is coming off an 82-47 loss to then-No. 8 (now No. 4) Florida. Ray didn’t like what he saw from his young team that night.
“I thought we lacked some enthusiasm. More importantly, I really didn’t feel that our guys thought that they could win that game,” Ray said. “I didn’t think they had a belief in themselves.
“In order for us to be successful, we’ve got to believe in ourselves, and I didn’t think we had that against Florida, so we’ve got to get that back.”
Freshman center Gavin Ware said the Bulldogs have reverted to some “old habits” during the losing streak, and the Florida game was a prime example. Ray didn’t like the way his players used the clock.
“I’m not saying those guys are selfish throughout the whole course of the season,” Ray said, “I’m saying in that particular instance playing against Florida we asked them to limit their possessions by not taking those quick shots.”
Such are the hazards of having a young team. Four newcomers are in the starting lineup, and the learning curve is steep and unforgiving.
“Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re being selfish,” freshman guard Craig Sword said. “But coach pointed out to us and showed us that we have been doing some selfish things on the court.”
Tonight, MSU faces a Texas A&M team that’s also trying to halt a four-game losing skid. Unlike State, though, the Aggies have been competitive, losing the last three games by a combined 12 points.
They’re led by Elston Turner, who’s averaging 15.7 points per game and scored 40 in Texas A&M’s last win, over Kentucky.
The Aggies have struggled with 3-point shooting and turnovers during their slide, but coach Billy Kennedy isn’t too down about it.
“Excited that our guys are still competing, and I think we’re close to breaking through,” he said.
On paper, this looks like a game MSU could win. Same goes for Saturday’s home game versus LSU (10-7, 1-5).
Ray understands this is a big week for his team. It’s a chance to get back on track and regain some confidence.
“These are two winnable games, as coach said, so all we have to do is believe in that, believe in ourselves and our team, and just trust in one another to get it done,” Ware said.