Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray, who is talking to point guard Trivante Bloodman, made his head coaching debut Sunday in a exhibition win at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Bill Simmonds/MSU athletics
November 5, 2012 10:10:49 AM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University men's basketball coach Rick Ray wanted answers after his team's only exhibition game. He may only have gotten more questions.
Ray has said repeatedly his team must do three things in each game to consider their performance a success.
MSU must be the harder working team, tougher team and smarter team. During brief portions of its exhibition opener Sunday afternoon, the Bulldogs accomplished all three of those items on the checklist. During longer stretches of its 80-74 victory over William Carey University of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, MSU managed to do none of those things. It is in this inconsistency where Ray has major issues with his squad just days before they open the 2012-13 season at Troy University.
"I don't know if you could be nervous about hustling," Ray said following his first game as a college basketball head coach. "I think guys might be nervous about what to do offensively but I don't think you should have any nerves about playing hard."
While playing an undersized and less athletic William Carey squad, MSU fell short in several key hustle categories in front of an announced crowd of 1,472 at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU was out rebounded on the offensive glass 12-10 leading to a 15-12 second chance points differential for the Crusaders - a point that was drilled home emphatically in the brief time Ray met with his team following the exhibition victory.
"We have to rebound a lot more than we usually do," MSU junior guard Jalen Steele said. "Everybody crashing the boards and really just executing everything to a T. Once we get that down pat I think we will be good."
Steele, one of two players on the roster returning that played any significant minutes last season, led the Bulldogs with 17 points by making 7-of-13 from the field.
It all of this inconsistent play that nearly led to a exhibition defeat in Ray's first game in Starkville and led to the Bulldogs coach answering frankly if he thought his team was prepared to play a contest that will actually go down in the record books.
""In one word - no," Ray said with a laugh.
The Bulldogs were outscored 36-24 in the paint, mostly due to layups off dribble penetration by William Carey's guards. MSU also gave William Carey 23 points off 16 turnovers, 10 of which came off the fast break.
"Defensively is what I'm most concerned about," Ray said. "I don't think we were the most aggressive team tonight. I felt it was a situation where we were on our heels a bit."
For a coach that has repeatedly said his team hasn't fought the new coaching staff on much of anything including the requirement of a higher effort especially on the defensive end of the floor, MSU appeared a step slow to the ball all afternoon against what was concerned an inferior opponent designed to be a tune up for Friday's opener at Troy.
"I'm most disappointed in the 100-0 balls, everybody calls them 50-50 balls or loose balls but I call them 100-0 balls because we should get them 100 percent of the time," Ray said. "So those
balls and those above the rim that turned into offensive rebounds, we can't give up offensive rebounds to a team like William Carey where we're bigger than them. That's my biggest concern."
Here's some other notes from MSU exhibition win Sunday afternoon:
- Colin Borchert, a junior college transfer from East Mississippi Community College, provided all 15 off the bench Sunday in the first half by connecting on 3-for-5 from beyond the three-point arc.
On a team that is likely to have quality depth throughout the season thanks to defections from the previous season and injuries to key incoming recruits, Borchert's scoring punch off the bench was a welcome sight to lift MSU out of a scoring drought.
"Colin was a big spark," Steele said. "Colin actually as knocking down shots, that we usually make."
- Freshman guard Andre Applewhite wasn't dressed Sunday after suffering a knee injury in a Friday practice just days before the Memphis native was set to make his MSU debut. Ray said Applewhite will have an MRI scan today and until those medical tests are performed, any update on his status is still to be determined.
"Once you get the results back, then the people that are more classified to talk about will tell me about it then we'll go from there," Ray said.
- Fred Thomas, who Ray said is going through the normal freshman development of learning the difference between a good shot and bad shot, will be a high volume shooter that averaged nearly 20 points per game at Jim Hill High School in Jackson. Thomas finished with 15 points in 28 minutes Sunday.
"If I'm open, I'm a very confident player," Thomas said. "Some of my shots (are) bad shots. That is what we are working on, my shot selection."
- MSU senior center Wendell Lewis knocked down six straight free throws to seal the victory. Lewis, a career 45.7 percent free throw shooter in his previous three seasons in Starkville, went 9-for-11 from the charity stripe to be the fourth MSU player in double figures with 15 points.
"I credited Wendell when I met with the team because I told him 'hey those free throws you knocked down were huge for us'," Ray said. "If you don't make those free throws, guys get a little tighter and I credit Wendell for making those."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
2. 'OzLand' to premiere locally Thursday ENTERTAINMENT