January 23, 2013 3:51:20 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University coach Rick Ray has laid the goals out for his club as they approach another Southeastern Conference road trip.
The Bulldogs (7-9, 2-2) will try to follow the system of their first-year coach, to hold the University of Arkansas to its lowest point total of the season at Bud Walton Arena. Not an easy task for a team that wants to speed up the tempo and get the score as high as its frantic state of play would suggest.
"I just think the other team is scoring too many points," Ray said. "We've had success when we hold people in the 50s but we're holding people in the 70s the last couple of games and that's too many points because we struggle on the offensive end. I don't know if we can consistently score 70 points in order to beat a team."
Arkansas (11-6, 2-2 in SEC) is second in the league in scoring at 78.6 points per game and third in steals per game with 9.3. Most of the production in both of those departments comes from sophomore guard BJ Young, who is third in the league in scoring at 17.2 points per game while also recording a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, as the St. Louis native leads the Razorbacks on both the offensive and defensive end.
"I think Young is a guy that is just hard to keep out of the paint (and) it's not going to be a one-man effort with Young," Ray said. "He is the type of guy that he tries to drive one way and you cut him off he'll cross over or spin or something like that and probe the defense the other way. So you've got to be constantly be moving to him, and make sure you don't allow him to get penetration."
In his first year of college basketball last season, Young averaged 20 points per game in two contests against MSU including 17-of-23 from the field.
Young and athletic forward Marshawn Powell are feeding off coach Mike Anderson's 40 Minutes of Hell style that involves 94 feet of pressing and the up-tempo run-and-jump trapping that MSU struggled with in a 75-43 defeat last week in Starkville to the University of Alabama. However, a 51- point effort in a SEC-opening loss at Texas A&M University where Powell was held scoreless makes Ray and the MSU staff think it's possible to catch the Hogs on a bad offensive execution evening.
"I don't think when you're playing pressure defense or up-tempo, it's not feast or famine, and I think you've got to make sure your guys understand that," Mike Anderson said. "I've always been of the mindset of we want to be unpredictable. You don't know when and where it's going to take place or how it's going to take place. That's been my philosophy from the standpoint of making the subtle adjustments (to the press)."
Following a 15-point performance in his hometown of Knoxville in a Saturday loss at the University of Tennessee, MSU junior guard Jalen Steele leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 11.1 points per outing.
Freshman Gavin Ware continues to pace MSU on the boards with 7.1 rebounds a game. The key for the former Starkville High star is keeping him out of foul trouble against the SEC big bodies that he's not able to work against in practice time at the Mize Pavilion.
"I think we've got to do some things as far as like making him a screener, where he sets a screen that is a threatening' screen so now his man has to help in some way or form or fashion so he gets some sort of angle on the post and try to get the ball inside to him," Ray said. "He's got to make quicker moves in the post. He has a tendency to wait, and dribble, and things like that, things that allow the other team to come post trap him or post help."
For the first time since joining the Southeastern Conference in 1992, the Razorbacks will not make a return trip to Starkville this season.
After closing out a two-game road trip on Wednesday, the Bulldogs return to the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum for a three-game stretch. MSU will host No. 8 Florida on Saturday in a 7 p.m. showdown that can be seen on ESPN2.