By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
As his team awaited a flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii on Thursday, Mississippi State coach Rick Ray posted this Twitter message: “Remember the old TV show, ‘Eight is Enough?’ Well, that is our roster.”
The Bulldogs (1-1) open play in the Maui Invitational today against No. 11 North Carolina (5 p.m., ESPN2), and they do so with a roster of eight players. Six of them are on scholarship.
Attrition has been the story since the end of last season, when four players left before their eligibility expired. It only got worse.
Two of Ray’s freshman were sidelined before the season with ACL injuries; then starting guard Jalen Steele was sidelined after fracturing his wrist in last week’s win over FAU; and then forward Colin Borchert was suspended for a violation of team rules and was left at home for this trip.
“I don’t want to hear excuses,” Ray said. “No one is feeling sorry for us.”
Even with all the personnel losses, MSU’s young team – four of the six scholarship players on this trip are newcomers, including three freshmen – there is no lack of confidence.
Freshman Fred Thomas said North Carolina is “just a name.” Freshman forward Gavin Ware agreed.
“They’ve got to suit up, they’ve got to dress up just like we do, and they’ve got to play just like we do,” Ware said.
The Tar Heels are 3-0 after beating Long Beach State 78-63 Friday. They’re led by James McAdoo (21 points per game) and Reggie Bullock (10 ppg).
This is the teams’ first meeting since the 2010 NIT, when UNC won 76-74 in Starkville in a second-round game.