January 15, 2014 10:19:21 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Mississippi State coach Rick Ray knew his scouting report was not understood and likely would be executed poorly at Alabama.
Hours prior Wednesday night's contest Ray had a feeling his team simply wasn't mentally ready for a Southeastern Conference road game by their mannerisms and attitude in the team shoot-around at Coleman Coliseum.
"Let's just be honest - we're not talented enough to not be locked in at this point in time," Ray said.
Ray knew the task would be to contain Tide senior guard Trevor Releford but helplessly watched No. 12 in a white jersey dominate his defense The SEC's sixth-leading scorer dropped in a team-leading 28 points in a 80-61 victory over MSU.
"Trevor Releford is good player and it's no big secret he went out and played the way he did tonight," Ray said. "We made Trevor Releford better than he actually is by not doing what we're supposed to be doing with our defensive assignments."
Releford maneuvered his way through MSU's mix of stylistic defenses and players designed to slow down the 6-foot guard who finished 10 of 13 from the field. At one point during a first half stretch, Releford had 14 of the Alabama's first 20 points and was personally responsible for six straight baskets by the Tide (8-8, 2-1 in Southeastern Conference).
In the days leading up to the contest at Alabama, Ray said his task was to bring his players back down to reality following a 76-72 home victory over Ole Miss. Once again, the Bulldogs second-year coach was less than pleased with team's reaction to any form of success.
"We haven't had a lot of success here but when we do, our guys get so wrapped up in that success and they don't carry it over in the next game," Ray said. "After some success we don't remember who we are as players and people."
With 12 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game, Releford forced a clearly depressed Ray to signal for a timeout following back-to-back 3-pointers resulting in a 53-35 lead for the Tide. At that point in the contest, Releford had 20 points and was 7 of 9 from the field on consistently wide open looks.
"When the second three went down, I was telling him to shoot another one," Alabama freshman forward Shannon Hale said.
Due to limited depth and early foul concerns, MSU (11-5, 1-2) eventually had to showcase a lineup where it's tallest player on the court was the 6-foot-5 Fred Thomas. The Bulldogs inability to defend without fouling allowed Alabama to eventually shoot 58.6 percent after a 1 of 6 start to the proceedings.
Wednesday night represented MSU's 16th loss by 15 points or more under Ray in his 48-game tenure in Starkville.
Just four nights removed from getting to the free throw line 41 times against Ole Miss, MSU managed just 16 attempts from the charity stripe at Alabama. The Bulldogs lack of aggressiveness on offense against Alabama's mixture of full-court trapping and zone defense immediately led to its downfall.
"Nobody came prepared and Coach (Ray) said he could tell from the walk-through that we weren't prepared at all for this game mentally or physically," Sword said.
For the first time since the 2007-08 season, MSU starts off SEC play with a losing record after three games and will try to get back on the winning track when they host Texas A&M (12-4, 3-0) Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. tip.
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.
5. A Stone's Throw: The veil COLUMNS