BULLDOGS STEP OUT OF SEC

CATEGORY: Basketball

AUTHOR: PHELPS

BULLDOGS STEP OUT OF SEC

By Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

Just two weeks ago, Mississippi State’s men’s basketball team was stuck in a nose dive.

The Bulldogs had lost to SEC foes Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and South Carolina and had an unimpressive six-point win over Ole Miss.

But nobody on the Bulldogs’ plane bailed out. Mississippi State gained control of the steering wheel, winning its last four games to climb back into contention in the SEC’s Western Division race. Tuesday’s nationally televised 78-63 win over division-leading Arkansas gave the Bulldogs a 15-5 overall record and a 7-4 league worksheet.

Are the Bulldogs making their stretch run with only six regular season games remaining?

“I’m the only person in America who felt like we’ve been making a run all year,” Mississippi State coach Richard Williams said. “I’ve seen steady improvement all year. I said at the beginning there were going to be some struggles. We had new players playing new positions.

“I don’t know whether we’ll make a run at the end. I’m just trying to get ready for our next basketball game.”

That next game happens to be today.

Mississippi State steps outside the SEC when it plays Oklahoma of the Big Eight Conference in a nationally televised (3:05 p.m., CBS) game at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

The Sooners are 13-8 overall and 4-4 in Big Eight play.

Leading the way for Oklahoma is last season’s conference player of the year, 6-foot-7 forward Ryan Minor. Through 21 games, Minor is averaging 21.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He is joined in the front court by 6-4 forward Ernie Abercrombie, who leads the Big Eight in rebounding, averaging 9.3 per game.

“Ryan Minor is a difficult matchup problem,” Williams said. “They can play him at guard, forward and post him up. We’ve got to find somebody who can defend him.”

State is led by its guards Darryl Wilson (16.9 ppg) and Marcus Bullard (14.2 ppg). The two combined for 50 points against Arkansas Wilson 26, Bullard 24.

Another factor for the Bulldogs is always 6-foot-11 center Erick Dampier. The big man is joined by improving forwards Dontae’ Jones and Russell Walters.

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