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Post-game from Tad Smith Coliseum - Ole Miss 93, MSU 75 - Ray not happy after lack of defensive effort




Matt Stevens


OXFORD - Mississippi State coach Rick Ray was not pleased and let that feeling be known immediately after the University of Mississippi was able to dispose of his basketball team in a rivalry game without much effort in 93-75 fashion.  


After MSU (7-14, 2-7 in Southeastern Conference) scored the first basket of the game on a tip in by freshman center Gavin Ware, Ole Miss got the capacity crowd of 8,299 at Tad Smith Coliseum energized with the next 19 points.  


During that excruciating stretch of four minutes of action, MSU turned the ball over eight times as MSU point guards Trivante Bloodman and Craig Sword were held scoreless for 24 minutes. The Bulldogs arrived in Oxford as the nation's worst team in assist-to-turnover ration and certainly didn't help themselves in moving up in that statistical category in sixth loss of 15 points or more.  


"We didn't do a good job at all of taking anything away that Ole Miss likes to do offensively," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "For this being a rivalry game, I don't think our guys came to play early at all." 


It was too easy for the Rebels (18-4, 7-2), who were coming off a two-game losing streak which knocked them out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll after a challenging week against the University of Kentucky and No. 4 University of Florida, were able to drive past perimeter defenders for layups or dunks for experienced interior players.  


"We had to stop the bleeding here," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy "We've got a tough stretch and needed to have a game where things went our way. I disappointed we just coasted in the second half." 


Ole Miss finished a first half shooting 15 of 26 from the field and got the foul line 12 more times in the first 20 minutes.  


"I can't say what happened defensively but I know it wasn't very good and yes - it felt like 93 points," Sword said.  


Rebels senior forward Murphy Holloway, who came into Wednesday night as the only player in the SEC averaging a double-double with 14.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, connected on his first six shots of the evening. Holloway had the entire MSU front court outscored 14-13 by halftime. Holloway ended the night with 24 points and eight rebounds.  


"The way Holloway got going was slipping off the screens for Marshall Henderson because our goal was to hold (Henderson) down as best we could," MSU junior guard Jalen Steele said. "That certainly didn't happen." 


Marshall Henderon, the SEC's leader in scoring, broke out of a 1 for 7 first half slump to finish with 31 points on 7 of 11 shooting in the final 20 minutes.  


"I know it doesn't look like it on the stat sheet but I really think our lack of defense tonight was the fact we forgot about the four players on the court who weren't Marshall Henderson," Sword said.  


Ware, who was expected to get the majority of the responsibility on Ole Miss' experienced and physical front court, was forced to park himself next to the MSU coaching staff on the bench after the Starkville native picked up three fouls in just over four minutes.  


With MSU forced to go with a smaller lineup that included Columbus native Tyson Cunningham at the power forward spot, Ole Miss found it too easy to find a 26-12 scoring advantage in the paint in the first half. Bulldogs sophomore forward Roquez Johnson picked up his fourth foul with 12 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the contest and the lack of roster depth left MSU defenseless against Holloway and senior Reginald Buckner. Both Johnson, Ware and East Mississippi Community College transfer Colin Borchert fouled out of the game for the first time this season. 


"I guess I have to do a better job teaching our big guys to defend without fouling because we did a really poor job at that all night," Ray said.  


The final deficit marked Ole Miss' largest win in the rivalry series in nearly 16 years since a 84-61 Rebels victory in Oxford on Feb. 19, 1997.  


"Maybe we don't have enough Mississippi guys on our team for it to matter to them," Ray said. "I can tell you it matters to me."



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