February 13, 2013 12:10:33 PM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University men's basketball coach Rick Ray knows the beginning and the end of the game plan for the University of Missouri.
Point guard Phil Pressey, a preseason All-American and likely first-round pick in the NBA draft, is the focal point for the Tigers on offense. The junior from Dallas will showcase his ability to control everything without having to score at 7 tonight (WCBI) when Missouri takes on MSU at Humphrey Coliseum.
"He's a pass-first guy who is looking to set up his teammates first," Ray said. "I don't think he gets glory out of scoring. I think he wants to try to make some things happen on the offensive end by getting into the lane and finding the open guy."
Pressey, a candidate for the 2013 Bob Cousy Award, which is given annually to college basketball's top point guard, leads the Southeastern Conference in assists (6.9 per game). He accomplished the same feat last season in the Big 12 Conference (6.4 a game). Pressey, whose dad, Paul, played for 12 years in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, and Golden State Warriors, is an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ray sees Phil Pressey as a throwback to the way point guards used to play the game.
Under coach Frank Haith, a former coach at the University of Miami, Pressey has flourished this season using ball screen action created by University of Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi at the top of the key.
"The difference between the old-school point guard and what there is now, there's so much more dribbling and ballhandling involved," Ray said. "That's what they want out of him. They want him coming off that ball screen constantly probing the defense and doing some things in transition. From the mentality of what he's trying to do, set up his teammates, most definitely old-school."
Missouri (17-6, 6-4) is 0-5 on the road in the SEC this season. It is coming off a double-digit win against the University of Mississippi last weekend.
"We've got to be ready to play," Haith said. "We haven't had success on the road. Any team that plays as hard as they play and competes, they're dangerous."
Ray said he will try to give Pressey different looks on defense even though the Bulldogs have only eight players on the roster, including six scholarship players.
"Trivante (Bloodman) will get the first assignment, and he'll probably play him the predominant amount of time he's in, but we'll have different guys on him like Tyson (Cunningham) and Chicken (Craig Sword)," Ray said. "The emphasis will be the guy on the ball guarding Phil Pressey and the guy whose man is setting the ball screen. Those two guys have to get Phil Pressey stopped. If we have to involve the other three guys on the court then we're in trouble."
MSU (7-15, 2-8) will try to snap an eight-game losing skid, the longest in program history since 2006.