Bulldogs must regroup quickly to face fourth-ranked Gators

February 7, 2013 11:13:45 PM

Matthew Stevens - [email protected]


STARKVILLE -- Wednesday was certainly not a good omen for the Mississippi State University men's basketball near future. 


The 93-75 defeat at the University of Mississippi saw the Bulldogs (7-14, 2-7 in Southeastern Conference) giving up uncontested layups, open perimeter looks and major scoring stretches which buried MSU early and often in its first trip to Oxford. 


With just over 48 hours to prepare, MSU first-year coach Rick Ray must prepare to face No. 4 Florida (18-3, 8-1) already steaming from its first league loss at the University of Arkansas this week. The Gators lead the SEC in field goal percentage at 49.2 percent and three-point shooting percentages at 39 percent. 


This is not good news for a defense that just allowed Ole Miss' two best offensive players (Marshall Henderson and Murphy Holloway) shoot 17 of 30 and combine for 45 points. 


"I can't say what happened defensively but I know it wasn't very good and yes -- it felt like 93 points," MSU freshman guard Craig Sword said. 


Florida is just 13 days away from delivering a 82-47 beating of the Bulldogs in Starkville where the Gators poured in a season-high 14 three-pointers and made 31 of 56 shots (55.4 percent) from the field. 


"They have best players in the SEC, the most talented players in the SEC but their willingness to share the basketball is by far their best attribute and our team needs to learn from that," Ray said after the loss to Florida. "We're just a selfish basketball and then we're not defending because we are so wrapped up in our offense." 


In a quiet way Wednesday night, Ole Miss took a firm control of the paint over MSU's undersized frontcourt and the Gators did the exact same thing in the matchup earlier in the season. Ole Miss senior center Reginald Buckner scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked five shots. MSU had sophomore Roquez Johnson, freshman Gavin Ware and East Mississippi Community College transfer Colin Borchert all foul out for the first time this season in the loss at Ole Miss. 


"I guess I have to do a better job teaching our big guys to defend without fouling because we did a really poor job at that all night," Ray said Wednesday night. 


Ware, who was expected to get the majority of the responsibility on Ole Miss' experienced and physical front court, was forced to park himself next to the MSU coaching staff on the bench after the Starkville native picked up three fouls in just over four minutes.  


Ten minutes into the loss to Florida, MSU was defeated on the boards by a 15-2 margin and 7-0 on the offensive end while the Bulldogs tried to manage any defensive momentum with 6-foot-3 Tyson Cunningham as the power forward during a stretch. 


"I think we were just a little bit bigger than them and we should get rebounds consistently as long as we're in correct position," Florida senior Erik Murphy said. 


MSU will try to avoid its first 8-game setback since 1987 in Richard Williams' first season when they travel at No. 4 Florida Saturday (Fox Sports South, 4 p.m.). In that 1986-87 season, MSU finished with seven total wins and three in conference. 


Florida will deal with the loss of forward Will Yeguete as the versatile defensive specialist is undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Friday morning and be sidelined from four to six weeks. 


The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Yeguete, the team's second-leading rebounder (6.3 per game) and instant energy defender, was dealing with tendinitis in the knee when he aggravated it Jan. 12 in a win at LSU.