February 24, 2013 10:06:50 AM
STARKVILLE - Statistically it was an average home game at Humphrey Coliseum Saturday afternoon for the Mississippi State University men's basketball program - another blowout loss.
Coming into the contest against one of the bottom Southeastern Conference programs, MSU's average margin of defeat at home was 23.2 points and that included single digit losses to Louisiana State University and Texas A&M University. The Bulldogs nearly doubled that margin Saturday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 4,087 but many of whom found the exits quickly.
The 72-31 defeat to Vanderbilt University matched the second-largest loss at Humphrey Coliseum and marked the school's lowest scoring output since the installation of the 45-second shot clock in the 1985-1986 season. The shot clock was reduced to 35 seconds for the 1993-94 season. The previous low in the shot clock era was a pair of 36-point performances including the 78-36 loss this season to Missouri in Starkville.
When asked about the embarrassment of the schools' 12-game losing streak, the longest conference drought in one season, MSU coach Rick Ray mentioned the numbers game of his roster.
"With all these statistics about records on how bad we're getting blown out, I'd like somebody to go back and look at the statistics at how many scholarship players they had," Ray said. "They didn't have six scholarship players and two walk-ons."
The Bulldogs first-year coach also gave an indication to the media that he may have been badly out strategized by the Commodores 14-year veteran on the other bench Kevin Stallings.
"Kevin Stallings is a really good basketball coach and he's the dean of coaches in the SEC for a reason," Ray said. "I'm sure he saw the tape of our loss to Missouri and saw we couldn't make perimeter shots then either."
By packing in his interior players on defense to focus on MSU freshman center Gavin Ware, Vanderbilt decided to force MSU's perimeter players to make outside shots. The result was a combined 2 for 19 from three-point range and the Bulldogs guards going 6 for 32 from the field. Ware finished with just five points and one rebound in 30 minutes.
Vanderbilt (11-15, 5-9 in SEC) had 10 different players score Saturday - a statistic that will be impossible for MSU to accomplish as they're not ever going to have 10 active players on the roster in the final month of the 2012-13 campaign.
Vanderbilt guard Kevin Bright led all scorer with 15 points with all of his field goals coming on shots from beyond the three-point arc.
The 41-point margin is the 13th time this season MSU has been beaten by double digits this season. The margin of victory most for Vanderbilt in SEC play since 92-51 win over Kentucky on Feb. 12, 2008.
"I wouldn't say we're an offensive juggernaut at this point in the season but we're getting better," Stallings said. "One of the things we wrote on the board today was create for your teammates and we did a great job of that."
After the game, Stallings almost sounded apologetic in the way his team completely dismantled a downtrodden MSU program.
"Obviously I would've never predicted that it would be this one-sided but I've been on the other end of those and it's no fun so Rick will get this thing right at some point," Stallings said.
It took until their was 9 minutes and 9 seconds left in the first half for MSU (7-19, 2-12) to earn its first basket of the afternoon. The Bulldogs missed their first nine shots and finished the first half 4 of 22 from the field. MSU is now 0-16 this season when down after the first 20 minutes of play.
"We're going to have to change something within practice, personnel or something that is within our system," MSU junior guard Jalen Steele said. "This is just not working for us. We'll play tremendous one game and then fall completely off in the very next game. Maybe we come in thinking it will come easy for us."
To Ray, the rebounding disparity signaled a lack of effort as both Vanderbilt and MSU missed the exact same amount of shots (33) but Vanderbilt was able to win the advantage 20-3 on the offensive boards. The hustle on the backboard led to a 24-0 advantage in second chance points for the Commodores.
"I really thought we would come out here and play well after our performance at Alabama," Ray said. "To come out and play this way against Vanderbilt is disappointing. Our guys just get too wrapped up in their own shots. When our shots don't go down, we don't do a good job with the rest of our game."
With the paltry offensive production of Saturday afternoon, MSU is left with currently no players averaging double figure scoring for the season. That statistical anomaly has only occurred once in school history during the 1987-88 season when Greg Lockhart led the Bulldogs with 9.9 points per game.
In his second game returning from a three-game suspension, Steele led MSU with nine points as the junior was just 2 of 10 from the field in 28 minutes.
The Bulldogs will try to avoid tying the school's longest conference losing streak in Lexington, Ky. Wednesday at the University of Kentucky in a 7 p.m. contest from historic Rupp Arena.