By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
– Looking back: MSU fell at Arkansas, 67-62, on Thursday when point guard Courtney Fortson torched the Bulldogs for 33 second-half points. State shot a season-low 31.3 percent from the floor. Saturday produced a better result, a 67-51 home victory versus LSU, which is winless in SEC play.
– Looking ahead: Two road games are scheduled this week: at No. 21 Vanderbilt (16-4, 5-1) on Wednesday, then at Florida (15-6, 4-3) on Saturday. Vandy had won 10 in a row before falling to No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday, 85-71. Florida was edged by No. 14 Tennessee, 61-60, on Sunday.
– Who’s hot: Even though his 3-point shooting has suffered – 2 of 12 his last two games – junior Ravern Johnson has found other ways to score. He had 19 points against Arkansas and 15 against LSU, both team highs. Overall, he shot 15 of 30 from the floor in the two games.
– Who’s not: Junior forward Kodi Augustus hasn’t quite found the scoring touch he had at the end of last season, when he was giving the Bulldogs a big spark off the bench. Last week, he made only 2 of 15 shots and scored 15 total points. He’s averaging 8.9 points per game.
– RPI watch: It’s been a steady drop for MSU, which was 44th in the country two weeks ago, 54th last week, and as of Sunday afternoon was 66th. That can start going back up this week with a win at Vanderbilt.
– Bottom line: The offense is still struggling. The Bulldogs shot 33.3 percent in the first half against LSU, but they hit 50 percent in the second half. State’s defense is stout enough to keep it in any game, but outside shooting is part of this team’s identity, and it must be recovered quickly.