February 3, 2013 12:20:18 AM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University head coach Rick Ray told his team exactly what to do with 7.9 seconds left in Saturday night's game against Louisiana State University.
His problem became the five guys on the floor during that final segment simply didn't listen to their coach. Ray told his team two things: don't foul and stop LSU's Anthony Hickey from getting to the basket.
Hickey made three consecutive baskets in what his coach called "heroic plays" as the Hopkinsville, Ky., native took the ball 94 feet for the game-winning runner with 1.5 seconds left in regulation.
MSU (7-13, 2-6) lost its sixth straight Southeastern Conference game, fourth straight home game and second straight home game after being up at halftime due to missing 10 of its final 13 free throws to as a stunned 5,880 at Humphrey Coliseum watched LSU celebrate a 69-68 victory.
"Coach was telling us that he expected us to run it right and don't let him get in the paint," MSU freshman center Gavin Ware said. "If they get the ball run, get the ball stopped. He got into our paint and coach said listening is a key factor in how we carry out the finish of the game."
After MSU's final timeout, Ray said he specifically instructed his players to stop Hickey with a double team of sophomore guard Trivante Bloodman and sophomore Roquez Johnson.
"Well this one right here hurts," Ray said after the loss.
Six words from Ray that may have defined the acceptance of the first-year head coach that his college basketball team may just not know what it takes to win against adequate Southeastern Conference competition.
MSU (7-13, 2-6) lost its sixth straight Southeastern Conference game and second straight home game after being up at halftime due to missing 10 of its final 13 free throws to as a stunned 5,880 at Humphrey Coliseum watched LSU celebrate a 69-68 victory.
"Obviously when you say this it always sounds bad, I don't want to take any credit away from LSU, the fact is we beat ourself," Ray said.
The defeat marked only the third time in the last 25 years of the Bulldogs program that they've lost six games in a row.
Before he went on a offensive run that included seven points in the final 46 seconds, Hickey was 2 for 11 from the field, 1 for 8 from three-point range. Hickey, the smallest player on the floor for either team, nailed a three-pointer, a contested jump shot and then the game-winning runner.
"Coach was telling us that he expected us to run it right and don't let him get in the paint," Ware said. "If they get the ball run, get the ball stopped. He got into our paint and coach said listening is a key factor in how we carry out the finish of the game."
Ray said he called the timeout after Bloodman hit a contest runner over two LSU players in the lane with 7.9 seconds because he needed to calm his team down. The Bulldogs first-year coach said he needed to properly set up his full-court defensive attack knowing Jones would get a chance to draw something up offensively in the other huddle.
"Our guys were celebrating and trying to find their men," Ray said. "I thought it was best for us to call a timeout. When I called the timeout I thought I was pretty clear about what we needed to do, but obviously that wasn't he case."
Ware, who hadn't faced LSU sophomore and Cleveland, Miss., native Johnny O'Bryant since a high school all-star game two years ago, was incredibly effective on the low block Saturday night with 14 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes. The point total was his fourth consecutive double-figure point total and held O'Bryant scoreless through the first half.
"I think Gavin has just turned the corner as far as continuing to become a better basketball player," Ray said. "He is going to be a guy when it's all said and done in the SEC that is going to be a problem for the other team. They are going to have to double him in the post or come down and dig in the post because he is just too big and strong. He's a freshman right now and he's doing those things. Imagine what he is going to be like as a junior, when he's got some savvy post moves and understand some things."
O'Bryant, rebounded from a frustrating first half to earn his fifth consecutive double-double effort with 12 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 90 seconds left.
"He came out in the first half probably not as aggressive in the first half as he has in the last few games, talked about it at halftime and talked about the energy level," Jones said. "He did those things like rebound the ball, defended inside but most importantly he went 4-for-4 from the free throw line at a crucial time."
Just four days earlier, MSU lost a 12-point halftime advantage to Texas A&M University and eventually lost the contest in overtime. On this occasion in Starkville, LSU (11-7, 3-5) didn't want to wait the extra five minutes of action.
"It's just felt like a fairy tale that we can come out with coach telling us that we worked so hard in practice and then for us to give it all away is just unacceptable," Ware said.
MSU will be on the road this coming week as they face the University of Mississippi Wednesday (8 p.m., CSS) and University of Florida Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports South). The Bulldogs is now 2-11 against teams that are in the Top 200 of the ratings percentage index.
"It's a process that our guys should be able to handle too," Ray said. "Maybe I want too much out of our team, maybe I'm the only one who thinks we should still be winning ballgames with seven scholarship guys. That's just the way I am. I believe if we go out and do things the right way we are always going to give ourselves a chance to win."
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.
4. America and the Muslims BOOK REVIEWS