By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Colin Borchert and Mississippi State have found a shooting rhythm. Now they just have to maintain it.
The Bulldogs (5-7), who open SEC play on Wednesday versus South Carolina (10-3), have struggled with their shot all season. But in Thursday’s 97-46 trouncing of New Orleans, MSU hit 56.5 percent of its shots, including 52.4 percent from 3-point range. Both were season highs.
Borchert, a junior college transfer, shot 8 of 10 overall and 1 of 2 from deep.
“The biggest thing is to get the rhythm of the game,” he said Monday. “That’s the big thing for me, getting used to it, getting in front of the big crowds.”
State ranks last in the SEC in both field goal percentage (41.2) and 3-point shooting (27.5). The UNO game could be the beginning of a trend, or it could be an anomaly.
Coach Rick Ray believes that game was the product of extra time spent putting up shots during Christmas break.
“Now the key is with school starting back up, those guys finding the time on their own to come in and get up shots,” Ray said.
They plan to.
“That’s all we do is get a lot of shots up, because (Ray) said that’s our big concern right now,” guard Craig Sword said.
Steele a big help
Junior guard Jalen Steele has played two games since returning from a wrist injury, and he was practicing a good bit before playing. That’s helped MSU not only with numbers – it has seven healthy scholarship players – but from a leadership standpoint.
Steele is easily the most experienced player on the floor.
“We can endure more, because when he got hurt, we were a little on the down side with less bodies,” freshman center Gavin Ware said. “But since he has come in, he started off as a leader, so that brought a leader back. That provided more chemistry and structure within the team.”
Steele is a strong shooter, and he’s already added some scoring punch, dropping16 points against UNO.
Steele’s presence helps his teammates improve their game.
“Oh yeah, a lot, because now they’ve got to go out and guard Jalen,” point guard Trivante Bloodman said. “That opens up the paint, and more attention will be on him. It opens everybody else’s game up.”
South Carolina gets Bruce Ellington back on Wednesday.
The junior point guard finished up his duties for the football team last week, catching the game-winning touchdown in the Gamecocks’ 33-28 Outback Bowl victory over Michigan. Coach Frank Martin said Ellington was practicing Monday and will suit up for the MSU game.
Ellington played in four games earlier this season before rejoining the football team for bowl prep. He averaged 9.8 points in those games.
“I’m sure it will take him 10, 12, 14 days to start feeling comfortable again, but I’m excited,” Martin said.