By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Rick Ray has liked what he’s seen of his team when playing at Humphrey Coliseum. The trick now is to duplicate it on the road.
Mississippi State (2-4) is in Rhode Island today to take on Providence (5-2) in the SEC/Big East Challenge. Tipoff is 11 a.m. on ESPNU.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 60-42 win over Alcorn State, which improved them to 2-0 at home. They’re 0-4 in road and neutral-site games.
“I want guys to feel comfortable and feel good about playing in the Hump. But somehow we’ve got to translate that onto the road as well,” Ray said.
MSU has played one true road game, losing 56-53 at Troy to open the season. After a 78-58 home win over FAU, State then fell to North Carolina, Marquette and Texas in the Maui Invitational.
The Bulldogs are averaging 54.8 points per game in the losses, while giving up an average of 77.3.
Youth has been a big factor for MSU, which has seven healthy scholarship players. Three of them are freshmen, and two others are junior college transfers.
A big culprit for State has been turnovers. It ranks 13th in the SEC in turnover margin (minus-1.83 per game) and last in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.5).
Against Alcorn State, MSU had 21 turnovers and six assists.
“We’ve got to fix that if we’re going to beat a good team down in the future on the road or at home, too,” Ray said.
Providence has the appearance of a good team, and it plays well at home, too: The Friars are 4-0 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Their two losses were in Puerto Rico, to UMass and Penn State, by a combined five points.
UMass defeated MSU in the first round of the NIT last season.
Like State, Providence is a bit short-handed, with just six scholarship players available. Starting point guard Vincent Council is day-to-day with a leg injury.
“The difference is they have some experienced veteran guys coming back of those six scholarship players,” Ray said. “I’ve known (coach) Ed Cooley, he does a good job of recruiting, does a good job of coaching. I know he’ll have those guys ready to play. …
“We’ve just got to get our guys in the mentality to go out and get ready to compete.”