November 13, 2012 11:55:08 PM
STARKVILLE - What did we learn?
Mississippi State University men's basketball coach Rick Ray had one single message to his team after losing the season opener at Troy University.
Get the basketball in the paint. Consider that mission accomplished Tuesday night in the Bulldogs home opener Tuesday night in a 78-58 victory over Florida Atlantic University.
After suffering through a frustrating 4-for-16 performance from beyond the three-point arc Friday night in a 56-53 loss at Troy, the Bulldogs (1-1) worked the ball inside to a pair of post presences and held a astounding 48-18 advantage in points in the paint against FAU.
Sophomore forward Roquez Johnson gave MSU an instant go-to scorer when the Montgomery, Ala., native got the basketball deep in the post. After missing the season opener at Troy with a concussion, the 6-foot-7 forward led the Bulldogs with 17 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
- Despite having a smaller rotation due to preseason injuries and a scary injury to junior guard Jalen Steele with 10 minutes and 40 seconds left in the first half, MSU managed to have three players off the bench in double figures Tuesday night.
Johnson along with freshmen Gavin Ware and Craig Sword combined for 38 of the Bulldogs 40 bench points
Ware has posted double figures in the first two games of his college basketball career as he totaled 10 points, five rebounds and a steal in 18 minutes. Immediately when the 6-foot-8 product from Starkville High School got in the action, he was establishing post position deep in the lane against FAU's bigger defenders.
- Jalen Steele suffered a frightening injury, which silenced the announced attendance of 3,021 at Humphrey Coliseum, came after the junior guard took a nasty fall on his head following a contested lay-up attempt. The MSU training staff looked off the 6-foot-3 guard for several minutes before even bringing a stretcher out on the playing floor. Steele was able to walk off the floor on his own power but was later received eight stitches in his head before being taken to a local hospital for further evaluations. Ray had no updated status information on his starting shooting guard following the win.
- Following a severe struggle to distribute the ball in Ray's motion offense in the opener, sophomore point guard Trivante Bloodman dished out a career-high seven assists with only two turnovers. Due to FAU (0-2) missing 18 three-point shots, Bloodman - the smallest player on the floor - was able to also collect a team-high five rebounds and instantly start MSU's fast break pace across the time line. With his veteran teammate on the floor, Bloodman started a 15-4 run to stretch out the lead in the first half to double digits.
- A major part of that run was MSU's ability to force an inexperience FAU team into 27 turnovers after they had only surrendered 17 two days earlier in a 80-56 loss at No. 11 University of North Carolina.
What did we hear?
Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray
"Obviously I am pleased with the results of this game. I thought our guys did a pretty good job of jumping out on Florida Atlantic to start. I thought they were a team that if they got out to a big lead they could be a problem; I did not want to give Florida Atlantic any confidence to start off with. I think the key to this victory was that we only took 10 threes. I think at times we took ill-advised shots and I know we are dealing with a lot of younger kids, but they have to learn for us to be successful offensively we have to grind it out."
On the inside emphasis vs. FAU
"The key to this victory is we only took 10 threes. I think at times we take bad, ill-advised shots. I know we're dealing with a whole bunch of younger kids but they got to learn in order for us to be successful we have to kind of grind it out."
On Roquez Johnson:
"Roquez is an aggressive kid. He's our toughest competitor. He doesn't shy away from contact and he likes being down there in the paint. I don't design anything for him to get into the paint, but he ends up down there. He goes after loose balls. He is an active body."
On spreading the minutes around:
"I just think how hard we want our guys to play basketball on the offensive end and defensive end with cutting, moving, screening all the time and defensively, it's hard to play more than 30 minutes a game,"
Mississippi State sophomore forward Roquez Johnson
"The Troy game is so close to my home of Montgomery that I had a lot of my people come to see that game so I had to make up for that game," Johnson said. "I'm a high intensity guy. I bring a lot of energy to the team and everybody moves."
Mississippi State freshman center Gavin Ware
"After that (Troy) game, we sat back and reviewed tape and we told the perimeter guys to just work with us," Ware said. "We they threw it down in the post, it opened us opportunities for them."
Mississippi State freshman guard Fred Thomas
"Against Troy I was pretty much off. I got back in the gym and knew I had to get some shots up. We were so mad we lost against Troy, we work hard in the next days."
No. 11 University of North Carolina (1-0), Maui Invitational first round, Nov. 19
MSU will step it up in competition for its next contest when they open up the Maui Invitational on Nov. 19 against North Carolina at 5 p.m. When asked if the Bulldogs were ready to play the No. 11 Tar Heels after his first victory as MSU head coach, Ray was emphatic with his answer.
"Not right now," Ray said. "We haven't prepared for them."
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.
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