December 12, 2013 7:27:13 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State coach Rick Ray is debating some lineup changes just seven games into the 2013-14 season.
To counter the Bulldogs (5-2) slow starts in games, Ray may tinker with the lineup despite going through severe depth concerns in the frontcourt.
In its first seven contests, Ray has watched the Bulldogs get behind in four games and be down in three games at halftime. In five of Mississippi State's seven games this season, it has scored more points in the second half.
"The thing we have to nail down is why we tend to get off to slow starts in the first half (and) I think it's a mental thing with us being wrapped up in our offense," Ray said. "We may have to change personnel in terms of who we start."
One of the lineup changes could involve freshman point guard IJ Ready getting back in the starting lineup after playing in the loss against TCU following recovering from a severe hamstring injury. Ready hit a trio of three-point shots in the 71-61 loss to the Horned Frogs in Starkville.
"If things were progressing the way I wanted to with him, he would've been back a long time ago but that's not fair to IJ or the training staff," Ray said. "He's where he needs to be at. IJ needs to continue to be fair to the process by being truthful with what is going on with his body. IJ is such a tough kid that he'll tell us it's not hurting him because he was to continue to play."
Through this opening stretch, all but one of the games being at the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum, MSU has shot just 29.5 percent from three-point range, which currently ranks tied for 263rd in the country, and has allowed defenses to just sit back in passive zone defenses.
"Teams right now are so concerned about the foul situations that they are just zoning us more and more and we're incapable right now of shooting our way out of the zone," Ray said. "We got a way to be effective against the zone."
MSU will travel Friday to the the newly-renovated BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo for a 7 p.m. tip against Southeastern Louisiana (3-5). Friday's clash marks ten years to the day since MSU's last visit to BancorpSouth Arena, a 77-59 win against New Orleans in 2003.
"We're really excited about playing this game in Tupelo," Ray said. "Ever since I got this job there's been a outcry from the community in Tupelo to do something there. This is always a delicate week for our players because of finals."
SE Louisiana (3-5) dropped a 74-73 decision to Southeast Missouri State Saturday but the Lions have already faced three foes from the SEC this season, losing matchups against Missouri, LSU, and Arkansas. The Lions are one of the worst defensive teams in the country ranking 309th of 345 Division 1 schools in field goal percentage defenses at 48 percent.
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.