By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Rick Ray still has a young basketball team.
But the second-year Mississippi State coach saw signs his team is maturing on Saturday against Ole Miss. Just as they did against Kentucky in the SEC opener, the Bulldogs jumped out to a double digit lead only to relinquish it later.
However, unlike the 22-point loss against the Wildcats, MSU continued to battle against its state counterpart down the stretch and finished with a 76-72 victory.
“I was really pleased with the way our guys dealt with some adversity here against a good ball club like Ole Miss,” Ray said. “In the past we’ve had some adversity and always folded. When (the Rebels) went on a run in the second half, we were still able to pull that game out. I thought that showed some growth and maturity.”
But the Bulldogs didn’t have long to celebrate their first league victory. State travels to Alabama on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“Now the key is getting our guys to come back down and get them ready to go compete,” Ray said. “Alabama does some things that give us problems like pressing in the backcourt and have been playing a lot of zone, too. Those are two things we’ll have to combat.”
The Crimson Tide swept Mississippi State last season and have won the last five meetings in Coleman Coliseum.
An 11-second video was posted to YouTube by MSU director of athletics Scott Stricklin showing Ray celebrating with his team following their win over Ole Miss.
Ray can be seen dancing with his players in the locker room. It’s received more than 20,000 views.
“It was just kind of spur of the moment,” Ray said. “When I walked in they started playing the music and dancing. I had flashbacks like I was in the club and I started dancing a little bit. It was a spontaneous thing and was fun. I don’t think you can ever plan anything out like that.”