Bulldogs’ Ray seeks first February win

RAY

RAY

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

Mississippi State played its most complete game in Southeastern Conference play against Texas A&M on Jan. 18.

The Bulldogs shot 52.7 percent from the field receiving 45 combined points from Craig Sword and Gavin Ware in an 81-72 overtime win in Starkville.

MSU (13-8, 3-5) hopes for a similar performance at 8 p.m. tonight on CSS in College Station.

“I think in the first game our team’s confidence level was at an all-time high,” Ware said. “I can remember it like it was yesterday. For us to be that competitive and team-minded, we weren’t focused on individual talents. We had to play as a team in that Texas A&M game, go into overtime and really push out the adversity.”

The Bulldogs are hoping to snap a three-game losing streak and a 13-game skid on the road dating back to last season. State is 0-9 in the month of February under coach Rick Ray.

“It’s not easy coming off a three-game losing streak and try to win one on the road,” Ware said. “But somehow, some way we’ve got to find that confidence to be able to be victorious again.”

Tonight will be the first meeting between the two programs at Reed Arena. State holds a slight 3-2 lead in the series with overtime deciding the last two outings.

Things have gone downhill for Texas A&M (12-9, 3-5) since their overtime loss to the Bulldogs. The Aggies were leading the SEC with a 3-0 start but the loss to MSU triggered the current five-game skid for Billy Kennedy’s squad.

“It definitely hurt us with the momentum,” Kennedy said. “The fact of the matter is we’ve got to be tougher and move on.”

The Aggies have played four of those five games on the road and welcome a chance to return to College Station, where they are 11-2 on the year.

Junior guard Jamal Jones is the only Texas A&M player scoring in double figures with 11.4 points a game. Jones scored 24 against the Bulldogs last month.

Mississippi State is just 1-16 in away games under Ray and have not won on the road since Jan. 12, 2013.

MSU enters the contest shooting 45.1 percent from the field and averaging 68.9 points. The Bulldogs have hit 31 percent of their shots from the outside and 64.7 percent from the charity stripe. They are third in the conference and 19th nationally with 8.4 steals an outing.

Sword scored a team-high 23 points against the Aggies in the previous contest.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com