Basketball Update: Mississippi State (19-8, 6-6 SEC)

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Looking back: MSU is in a slide, dropping a pair of road games to teams with worse records. The Bulldogs, who have lost three in a row, fell to LSU on Tuesday, 69-67 in overtime, then came up short at Auburn on Saturday, 65-55.
Looking ahead: State is back home Tuesday to take on No. 1 Kentucky (26-1, 11-0) in an ESPN game (8 p.m.). The Wildcats have won the last three meetings. Then on Saturday, it’s back on the road to Alabama (5 p.m., ESPN), a team MSU beat 56-52 in Starkville on Jan. 14.
Who’s hot: Brian Bryant is a starter but a role player, and he’s been playing his role well lately. In two games last week, the senior guard averaged 8.0 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He totaled nine rebounds and five steals.
Who’s not: Sophomore Jalen Steele, who’d been on a tear from 3-point range, made only 1 of 7 from there last week. He hit 2 of 9 shots total and was shut out by LSU. Steele is shooting 39.2 percent from 3-point range for the season.
RPI watch: State slipped further down the RPI rankings. It was at 32 two weeks ago, then 50 entering the Auburn game. That loss dropped MSU to 57th – Auburn was 134th entering the game. Looking ahead, Kentucky’s RPI rank is third, while Alabama’s is 35th.
Bottom line: MSU had strong stretches of plays in both losses last week, but it blew a 17-point lead to LSU and was unable to hit wide-open shots at Auburn. This sort of play will quickly send the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament bubble, and if they’re not careful, right off the wrong side of it.

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