STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) –With 12 games in the books, Rick Ray definitely sees improvement with his basketball team. Yet, he knows all too well with the start of SEC play, continued improvement will be key.
Wednesday, Mississippi State opens its league slate at 7 p.m. against South Carolina at Humphrey Coliseum. The game will be shown on ESPN3, with Mike Gleason and Nate Ross handling the broadcast.
The Bulldogs enter the contest with a 5-7 ledger after they dismantled New Orleans 97-46 on Jan. 3. Prior to that game, MSU was upset by Alabama A&M, 59-57, despite leading by as many as 15 points.
“The first 15 minutes were the best we’d played,” Ray said of the Alabama A&M setback. “But because we lost no one thinks we got better. I could have come in there upset and put them through rigors in practice, but that’s not what our team needed. We played really well for 15 minutes, then we had a scoring drought. And when you have a drought guys revert to old habits.”
It’s those type of teaching moments Ray hopes will lead to success in SEC play.
It certainly looked as much against the Privateers, as the Bulldogs totaled a season-high 97 points and shot a sizzling 56.5 percent from the floor.
Junior forward Colin Borchert paced MSU with 17 points, while Jalen Steele and Fred Thomas each added 16.
“It was good for our guys to see all their hard work come to fruition with a win,” Ray said.
South Carolina ports a 10-3 record and owns a five-game win streak. In their last outing on Saturday, the Gamecocks upended South Carolina State, 80-69.
On the year, Brenton Williams leads USC in scoring with his 13.1 clip, while Lakeem Jackson is tops on the boards at 7.6.
“The big thing for us against them is they do a great job attacking the glass,” Ray said. “We’re going to do things as far as screening against their posts and in transition, but it pales compared to what happens when the ball goes up. We’ve got to be ready for combat, not just rebounds but loose balls as well.”
MSU is 16-8 all-time against Carolina and has won six-straight in the series. The Gamecocks’ last win in Starkville came in 2007. Last year in Columbia, MSU rallied to claim a 69-67 win in overtime.
After Wednesday, the Bulldogs travel to Georgia for a 12:30 p.m. CT showdown on the SEC Network.