November 13, 2012 11:34:27 AM
STARKVILLE - The Mississippi State men's basketball program is trying to avoid a dubious distinction tonight.
The Bulldogs (0-1) haven't started a college basketball season by losing the first two games since 1967 when Jan Dan Gold was in his second year of taking over for legendary coach Babe McCarthy.
In his first season in Starkville, MSU coach Rick Ray will look to get his first victory in the home opener at Humphrey Coliseum as they host Florida Atlantic University (0-1) as part of the pre-qualifying games for the 2012 EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Ray, who is taking over the MSU program from the school's all-time leading winner Rick Stansbury, watched his team struggle at times early in a season-opening 56-53 defeat Friday at Troy University.
"I know our guys are just ready to get back on the court after a tough loss," Ray said. "I was proud of the way our guys fought back and played in the second half, but we need that type of competitive spirit
for two halves."
Florida Atlantic (0-1), who is led by veteran coach Mike Jarvis, fell to No. 11 University of North Carolina, 80-56, despite an 18-point effort from Greg Gantt. Gantt was a starter that scored 12 points on the Owls 2010-11 squad that came into Starkville and shocked MSU 61-59 in the
fifth game of that season.
Ray will try to get the new MSU motion offense, which appeared at several times in the opener Friday to not having any cohesion, to run smoother in a half-court situation as the Bulldogs were 15-for-37 from inside the three-point arc against Troy.
"In the first half, we didn't show any form of discipline on offense and that's disappointing," Ray said after the loss. "In order for this team to be successful we're going to have to grind out some possessions. "We weren't in attack mode. We took a couple ill advised shots in the first half and when you shoot 4-for-16 from three, you probably ought to look somewhere else and get the ball into the
A way for MSU to increase productivity in the paint would be the return of sophomore Roquez Johnson to the lineup but the 6-foot-7 forward is still being listed as a game-time decision by MSU officials
after suffering a concussion days before the 2012-13 season opener. Johnson did not make the trip after suffering a concussion in practice that knocked him completely out after falling to the floor during
drills. MSU basketball spokesman Gregg Ellis said Monday Johnson was being re-evaluated by the MSU medical and training staff by the team's practice.
"Fortunately he didn't come down in the incident on his head and the concussion was from the collision and once that happened, we knew instantly he wouldn't be able to play (Friday)," Ray said Friday after
the loss at Troy. "When you're dealing with a concussion, that's serious business so I don't know his medical status so our team trainers and doctors will have to answer that later."
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. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT