The Bulldogs (3-6) make their annual trip to Jackson today, where they will take on Central Arkansas (4-4) at 2 p.m. at Mississippi Coliseum. With a slew of injuries limiting MSU to only six available scholarship players, there is nothing to do but fight through.
“We’re losing people, but that doesn’t change how hard we work in practice, and how we’re affecting the games,” forward Colin Borchert said. “We have to keep our heads up and keep on working.”
The latest loss was senior center Wendell Lewis, who could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. He had surgery on Wednesday.
His absence requires first-year coach Rick Ray to further shuffle an already thin deck. The 6-foot-8 Borchert, who normally plays the four spot, is having to work some at Lewis’ position.
“I have to be tougher,” he said. “I have to be physical. Stuff happens.”
MSU is coming off a 59-51 loss at Loyola-Chicago one week ago. State made just 37.5 percent of its shots that game, and on the season it ranks last in the SEC in both field goal percentage (39.0) and scoring (58.2 points per game).
Central Arkansas, of the Southland Conference, is giving up 77.8 points per game, so perhaps the Bulldogs can find their stroke today.
“We’re getting open looks, but we’ll be so tired with these eight players,” freshman guard Fred Thomas said. “We’re still trying to compete and come out and win the game, but it’s hard. We’re getting open shots, but we’ve got to knock them down.”
Two walk-ons give MSU eight total players, and they’re all needed. Ray joked that nobody has to worry about playing time, but all the youth – three freshmen and two sophomores are in the starting lineup – leads to a steep learning curve.
“There is really no one we can turn to when we make mistakes,” Ray said. “But our guys are buying in to what we are trying to do. They are going to make freshmen mistakes, and we have to let those play out on the court.”