By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State freshman I.J. Ready is taking today’s game personally.
The Little Rock native has had today’s 3 p.m. matchup against visiting Arkansas circled for a while now and is looking forward to playing against his hometown team.
“This game has a lot of significance that I’m not going to speak of,” Ready said. “I saw that game on the schedule when I first got here. I was looking for it to see what date it was. It came quicker than I thought but I’m ready for it. I’ve got a lot of people coming.”
However, Ready is careful not to become more emotionally involved in this game than in any previous outings.
“I can’t go out there and do more than what I’m capable of or more than what I’ve already been doing because it might bring out the worst,” Ready said. “The goal for me is to win, not to go out there and score 30 or 40 (points). I just want to do anything to win. A win against Arkansas would be a great thing.”
Ready has been the Bulldogs’ starting point guard for a majority of the season although his rookie campaign has been hampered by injuries. The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder has missed seven games this season due to a fever, hamstring injury and a concussion.
MSU (13-13, 3-10) is seeking to snap an eight game losing streak dating back to Jan. 22 against Auburn. The Bulldogs fell 92-81 on Wednesday night despite a career-high 33 points from sophomore shooting guard Craig Sword.
Sword continues to pace the Bulldogs offensively, averaging 13.6 points per game.
State has had a strong track record of late against the Razorbacks at home. The Bulldogs have won 12 straight games against Arkansas inside Humphrey Coliseum but still trail in the overall series 29-25.
The Hogs claimed last year’s contest 96-70 in Fayetteville. Fred Thomas scored 17 points in 24 minutes off the bench for Mississippi State in that game.
Arkansas (15-9, 6-7) has started to heat up of late winning four of its last five outings. The Razorbacks are coming off back-to-back home wins over LSU (81-70) and South Carolina (71-64).
“It all starts with their pressure off the defensive end,” said MSU coach Rick Ray. “They’ve got a multitude of presses that they come at you with. They make good decisions under pressure and that’s something where a lot of teams cave in. They rebound the basketball and have four guys who can bring the ball down the court.”
Mike Anderson’s squad has three players averaging in double figures, led by 6-foot-10 freshman forward Bobby Portis (13.1 ppg).