By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
MSU’s slide continued with a pair of blowout losses. A trip to Arkansas on Wednesday resulted in a 96-70 setback, and that was followed by an 82-47 home loss to No. 8 Florida on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have lost four in a row and continue to suffer the ills of being young and short-handed.
State resumes a three-game homestand Wednesday against Texas A&M (12-7, 2-4), then hosts LSU (10-7, 1-5) on Saturday.
Freshman guard Fred Thomas has become the go-to scorer for a team struggling to find points. In four SEC games, he’s averaging 15.0 points. Thomas had 17 versus Arkansas and a career-high 19 against Florida, plus seven steals.
Junior Jalen Steele, MSU’s most experienced player, scored just five points against Arkansas and none against Florida.
He was a combined 1 of 13 from the floor in those games, and his season scoring average has dipped to 9.4 ppg.
MSU’s RPI rank has jumped 20 spots from last week, to 222, mainly due to playing Florida, which is fifth in RPI. State’s strength-of-schedule got an even bigger boost, up 95 spots to 150th in the rankings.
Looking ahead, Texas A&M is ranked 85th in RPI, while LSU is 153rd.
As the losses pile up, first-year coach Rick Ray’s challenge grows ever greater. He must keep the young players in line with what he’s teaching even when things are bad.
This week, however, presents a couple of decent opportunities for the Bulldogs to pick up a win.