By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
The Bulldogs fell behind early at Kentucky and left an 85-55 loser, and it was the 13th consecutive loss for MSU. But it bounced back in a big way on Saturday, taking down Ole Miss, 73-67, and doing severe damage to its rival’s NCAA tournament hopes in the process.
MSU closes out the regular season this week. First up is a trip to South Carolina (13-16, 3-13) on Wednesday, then Auburn (9-20, 3-13) will visit Starkville on Saturday. State is tied with those two teams for last in the SEC standings, so a couple of wins could earn MSU as high as a No. 12 seed for the SEC Tournament.
After getting shut out by Vanderbilt, forward Colin Borchert scored 10 points against Kentucky, then followed that with a career-high 21 points against Ole Miss. The junior made 7 of 10 shots versus the Rebels, plus he had seven rebounds and three assists.
Guard Jalen Steele is still trying to regain his stroke since returning from a three-game suspension. In last week’s games he totaled 20 points, shooting 3 of 11 from the floor in each contest. He made 3 of 13 from 3-point range.
Playing highly rated Kentucky and beating Ole Miss gave MSU a strong boost in the RPI rankings, up 16 spots to 226th in the country. And the Bulldogs no longer have the SEC’s lowest RPI – that belongs to Auburn, at 228th. South Carolina is one spot higher than MSU, at 204th.
This young MSU team was often discouraged during its losing streak but kept giving the effort coach Rick Ray was wanting, and that finally paid off against Ole Miss. The should provide a huge boost of confidence heading into not only this week, but into the offseason.