By Logan Lowery
The good news for Mississippi State is it has already proven it can beat Auburn this season.
The bad news is that the Bulldogs are in the midst of a six-game losing skid and have lost 14 consecutive road games. MSU travels to the plains hoping to snap the negative trend today at 12:30 p.m., in a game that will be seen on WCBI and WLMT.
“We haven’t won a road game since (Georgia) and that was a whole year ago,” said MSU point guard Trivante Bloodman. “That’s unbelievable but our next road game we’re just going to have to try and compete and pull it out.”
The Bulldogs (13-11, 3-8) most recent loss might have been its most disheartening. State held a 14 point lead in the first half in its home floor only to watch it turn into a 75-55 blowout in favor of Georgia.
The most scholarship players that head coach Rick Ray has had during his two-year tenure in Starkville is nine, four below the allotment teams are allowed to have. The Bulldogs have routinely played with between six and eight scholarship players during that span.
Mississippi State currently has eight scholarship players on its roster and the lack of depth, especially in the front court, is starting to show. The Bulldogs have only three post players and one true center in Gavin Ware. Forward Colin Borchert prefers to play facing the basket while Roquez Johnson at 6-foot-7, 207-pounds gives up a great size advantage most outings.
“It’s been two years now that we’ve been playing with six, seven and eight scholarship players,” Ray said. “I had a conversation with my old boss at Clemson (Brad Brownell) and he said I was doing some good things, just didn’t have enough bodies. He said when his guys screw up he can put them on the bench until he finds a recipe that works. I can’t do that. I’m not going to put it all on that but having five less scholarship guys than what you’re supposed to have hurts.”
MSU has just two of its players scoring in double figures led by sophomore shooting guard Craig Sword averaging 13 points.
“We only have eight guys and we don’t have any guys who are individually good enough to put us on their backs and go forward,” Ray said. “We’ve got to make sure we stay collective as a unit and that everybody is on the same page.”
That happened on Jan. 22 when the Bulldogs defeated Auburn 82-74 inside Humphrey Coliseum. Borchert led the way with 17 points followed by Fred Thomas with 14 points and Bloodman with 13.
Auburn (11-11, 3-8) has dropped two straight to LSU and Kentucky. The Tigers are led by the SEC’s leading scorer Chris Denson averaging 20.5 points a game.