Ray: Opportunities as season winds down

RAY

RAY

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State hits the road for two of its final three regular season games.

The Bulldogs travel to Missouri today for a 12:47 p.m. tipoff facing the Tigers for the first time this season. MSU will also face South Carolina for the first time this season next Saturday as well.

“By this time you’d think you’d have old hat and old foes but we’re going to be playing guys for the first time,” said MSU coach Rick Ray. “I think it almost helps you because you’ve got something new and fresh and it’s not like preparing for a team you’ve already prepared for because sometimes guys tune that out.

“But what I’d like to look forward to being new and fresh is a win more so than the opponent.”

The Bulldogs have lost 10 straight entering today’s game which is the sixth-longest streak in school history. Seven of those losses during the current skid have come by 11-points or less including the last four.

“Right now I’m frustrated,” Ray said. “I want to win and I know those kids want to win. They’re giving me everything they can to help us win at this point in time. But it’s just not there at this point in time. But as long as they continue to fight for me, listen and believe in what we’re doing we’ll be fine.”

State is coming off a 75-68 loss to Tennessee on Wednesday where the Bulldogs were able to battle back from a 14-point deficit cutting the lead to four on five occasions in the second half but could not draw any closer falling to 13-15 overall and 3-12 in conference play.

Today marks just the fifth meeting against Missouri on the hardwood. The Tigers hold a 3-1 edge in the series including a 2-0 mark in Columbia.

Missouri won last year’s contest 78-36 in Starkville, marking the largest home loss in Mississippi State history. The Tigers backcourt duo of Junior Cadougan and Jabari Brown combined to score 44 points in that game.

Trivante Bloodman was the only Bulldog to score in double figures against Missouri last year with 13.

MSU enters today’s game shooting 44.4 percent from the field and averaging 68.3 points per game. Craig Sword continues to pace the Bulldogs scoring 13.3 points.

Missouri (19-9, 7-8) has won three straight games inside Mizzou Arena but have dropped its past two games on the road. The Tigers fell 80-73 at Alabama and 71-56 at Georgia last week.

Frank Haith’s squad is led by backcourt consisting of 6-foot-5 guards – Brown (20.1 ppg), Jordan Clarkson (18.6 ppg) and Earnest Ross (14.3 ppg). Brown leads the SEC in scoring during conference play averaging 21.5 points.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com