March 8, 2014 7:35:34 PM
STARKVILLE -- Welcome to a second consecutive 13-game losing streak involving Mississippi State men's basketball.
The collective attitude of the Bulldogs team just sunk Saturday afternoon in front of a spotty Humphrey Coliseum crowd as they lost its regular season finale 74-62 to South Carolina.
MSU (13-18, 3-15 in Southeastern Conference) has now managed to lose the same amount of SEC regular season games under coach Rick Ray (29) than the previous four previous seasons combined.
"We're not very good," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "What's (former NFL Hall of Fame coach) Bill Parcells always say, you are what your record is. We're not good."
After the game, Bulldogs sophomore guard Craig Sword could barely hold his head up at the post-game media table when trying to describe his second consecutive 13-game losing streak since arriving on the Starkville campus.
"It's hard," Sword while staring down at the table. "We play our hardest and we still can't get a victory."
The game was the final home contest for MSU seniors Colin Borchert and Tyson Cunningham.
South Carolina (12-19, 5-13) managed to guarantee MSU would finish last in the conference standings for the first time since the 1986-87 season. Gamecocks senior guard Brenton Williams didn't need his head coach as he carried the team in the second half to victory. Gamecocks coach Frank Martin was serving a school mandated one-game suspension for his language and behavior in his team's loss to Florida this week.
Williams had another highlight reel game against MSU in the Gamecocks second road win in the last three years. Williams had 38 points in Columbia, S.C., last season during a 79-72 win over the Bulldogs and managed to continue his hot shooting of 7 of 14 from beyond the three-point arc Saturday for a game-high 27 points.
"It was one of those moments like I did last year against Mississippi State," Williams said. "There were times I really didn't know where I was on the floor but just let it go and watched it go in."
The post-game mental confusion between Ray and his players can be summed up with the unparalleled vision of their defensive effort on Williams. Both Fred Thomas and Sword agreed on the idea that the 5-foot-11 guard hit contested shots after a solid defensive possession.
"They hit some tough three when we contested it," Thomas said. "We defended them well but (Williams) hit some shots with a hand in his face."
Ray completely disagreed with his players assessment of their defensive focus and has the statistics to back up more than a coach's gut feeling.
"No, I didn't see that (because) I think they were uncontested threes but my point is (Williams) isn't supposed to be able to take those threes if we're doing our job," Ray said.
A defensive switch by Ray and the coaching staff allowed South Carolina freshman Sindarius Thornwell's scoring punch to be transferred to his perimeter teammate and South Carolina's leading scorer in the 2013-14 season took full advantage.
"I thought Fred Thomas did a excellent job defensive because we had him on Brenton Williams in the first half and then we switched him on Sindarius Thornwell," Ray said. "Without Fred on him in the second half, (Williams) goes off in the second half. Somebody on the court for us has to be able to defend besides Fred Thomas."
Sword and Thomas scored 33 of MSU's 62 points Saturday but the rest of the Bulldogs couldn't find the basket. The rest of MSU's 8-man rotation shot just 8 of 25 from the field. MSU's front court presence of Gavin Ware, Roquez Johnson and Borchert managed just 17 points and were a big reason South Carolina out rebounded the Bulldogs 21-10 on the offensive end.
"The two things we didn't want to do with South Carolina was give them offensive rebounds and turn the ball over," Ray said. "So, especially in the first half I didn't think we did a good job with the scouting report."
MSU's current 13-game losing is the first time the program has seen back-to-back seasons with a double-digit losing streak. The Bulldogs have one final chance Wednesday night to avoid tying the school record for consecutive losses set back in 1955. MSU will play Vanderbilt (15-15, 7-11) in the final game of the opening round of the SEC Tournament in Atlanta, Ga. The winner of that game will earn the right to face Ole Miss (18-13, 9-9) Thursday night.
"We can't go and take that game as the end of a season," Ray said. "How we play against Vanderbilt Wednesday night, is a direct indication of how things will be for us next season."
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. A Microhistory of Religious Conflict BOOK REVIEWS