Scuffling Bulldogs invade Nashville

8TB6_MSU_primary_logoBy Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

NASHVILLE – Mississippi State is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this season.

But the Bulldogs will not have much time to regroup. MSU has a quick turnaround after Thursday night’s loss to No. 3 Florida, traveling to Vanderbilt today for a 4 p.m. tipoff.

“We’re going to treat it like we have every game,” said MSU guard Craig Sword. “We’re going to play one game at a time.”

The Bulldogs (13-7, 3-4) have suffered 12 straight losses on the road. State’s last road win came Jan. 12, 2013 at Georgia. Rick Ray’s squad is 0-4 on the road this season including three Southeastern Conference losses by an average of 20 points.

“I think it starts with the players,” said MSU forward Colin Borchert. “We have to be together on the road, that’s the biggest thing. We have to be as one. We have to be synced. Sometimes you’ll see us venture off and do our own thing. We have to play as a team.”

Nashville blues

Nashville has not been kind to the Bulldogs over the years. Mississippi State is just 9-44 at Memorial Coliseum but won their last outing there, in 2012, 78-77 in overtime.

Vanderbilt leads the all-time series 75-45 and has won three of the last four meetings. The Commodores crushed the Bulldogs in Starkville last season 72-31.

Vandy (11-8, 3-4) is down to seven scholarship players this season due to injury and suspension. Ray certainly understands that situation having spent most of his rookie season under those circumstances last year.

However Ray feels Kevin Stallings being in his 15th year at the helm of the Commodores plus several veteran players on the roster makes a big difference.

“It’s a little different for (Stallings) because he already had a system implemented,” Ray said. “Last year I was trying to implement a system. He’s a veteran ball coach who knows what his strengths and weaknesses are with his team.

“It makes a difference when you’re in your first year and trying to build a program.”

Although the Bulldogs are not as in dire circumstances as last year, only eight scholarship players will make the road trip.

By the numbers

Mississippi State is shooting 45.3 percent from the field and averaging 69.9 points per game. The Bulldogs are hitting 30.7 percent from behind the arc and 64.7 percent from the charity stripe. They rank second in the SEC and 18th nationally with 8.6 steals per game.

Sword continues to pace MSU with an average of 13.9 points per game.

Vanderbilt has won two straight road games, over Texas A&M (66-55) and Georgia (59-54).

The Commodores are led by senior forward Rod Odom, who averages 14.1 points and six rebounds.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com