By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State has hit the wall, but it’s going to keep climbing.
The Bulldogs (7-16, 2-9 SEC) travel to LSU today in search of their first win since Jan. 12. They’ve lost nine in a row since then, most recently a 78-36 setback to Missouri – the worst MSU loss in Humphrey Coliseum history.
With junior Jalen Steele suspended the last two games for a violation of team rules, MSU has been down to six available scholarship players, all but one of them newcomers. Colin Borchert, a junior college transfer, admitted that the Bulldogs have hit a wall.
But first-year coach Rick Ray had a message for the team.
“He said now it’s time to grow up and fight through it,” Borchert said. “We’ve lost a lot of games so far. We’ve got to keep on playing, we’ve got to keep on practicing, we’ve got to keep on working.
“The season ain’t over yet. Anything could happen.”
As far as postseason hopes go, there are none for State, barring a very unlikely run to an SEC Tournament championship. There are seven regular season games to play until then, and so this battered, exhausted team must find a way to make something – anything – good happen.
Borchert said the big challenge for MSU now is a mental one. Ray said he expects to see some pride from this team after the Missouri debacle, in which MSU shot a season-low 23.9 percent from the field.
“You would hope that guys would have some pride in themselves and Mississippi State basketball, want to go out and try to rectify that,” Ray said. “If that’s not enough, then we’ve got problems.”
LSU (14-8, 5-6) won in Starkville two weeks ago, 69-68, when Anthony Hickey made a shot with 1.5 seconds remaining. That heartbreak is still fresh on the mind of Borchert.
“They came to our house and stole one from us. We’ve got to go to their house and steal one from them,” he said.
The Tigers are coming off a 64-46 win over South Carolina on Thursday, and they’ve won four of their last five.
MSU is 1-7 in road games this season. Getting back in the win column and finishing the season strong could give the Bulldogs a big psychological boost.
“All it’s going to do is just give us confidence, I think, just to move on to next year and say, you know, we are good enough to play with these guys,” Borchert said. “We are SEC talent, and we’re not going to give up.”