February 14, 2013 10:37:10 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- After a 78-36 loss to the University of Missouri on Wednesday night, freshman center Gavin Ware summed up the attitude of the Mississippi State University men's basketball team.
"Our coaches told us we have seven more games this season whether we like it or not," Ware said with his head down at the podium.
The 52-point loss was the largest margin of defeat for MSU (7-16, 2-9 Southeastern Conference) in the 38-season history of Humphrey Coliseum. The previous worst loss was a 41-point loss to Vanderbilt University on Feb. 27, 1993.
"This is an embarrassing loss when you go out and you're totally inept offensively," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "You would hope guys would have some pride in themselves and Mississippi State basketball and try to rectify that."
Missouri (18-6, 7-4) held MSU to less than 40 points for the first time since MSU lost to George Washington University 57-36 on Dec. 8, 1996, in the Franklin National Bank Classic in Landover, Md. Against Missouri, MSU was 11 of 45 (24.4 percent) from the field and 3 of 19 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs, who are the nation's third worst team in assist-to-turnover ratio, had three assists and 15 turnovers in their seventh loss of 25 points or more this season.
"Missouri is not a very good defensive team if you look at the stats," Ray said. "They are near or at the bottom of all of the defensive categories, so it wasn't like we were coming in facing a defensive juggernaut. We just didn't do a good job executing offensively."
Missouri senior guard Keion Bell outscored MSU in the first half 16-10. The Pepperdine University transfer led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting. With MSU junior guard Jalen Steele out serving the second game of an indefinite suspension, Bell drove through the perimeter defense consistently for uncontested layups.
"That's just my game to try to find as many driving lanes as possible and play as hard as I can," Bell said. "When I looked for the drive, I saw the open lane and I just took it inside. It feels great to get our first road win."
Missouri outscored MSU 40-14 in the paint and 28-10 off turnovers. Ray said MSU missing its first 11 shots allowed Missouri point guard Phil Pressey to get out in transition. Pressey, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft, had eight assists and four rebounds in 24 minutes.
Missouri entered the game 0-5 on the road in the SEC.
"I thought our guys came out and set the tone on the defensive end," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "We still missed a couple of (shots) in the first half, and you could still see we struggled to get into the flow offensively, but I thought our defense set the tone, and that's what it needs to do on the road."
The 36 points was the lowest point total by a Missouri opponent this season. The Tigers entered the game allowing 70 points per game in SEC play, which was 12th in the 14-team league. Missouri center Alex Oriakhi had 10 rebounds and three blocked shots and took Ware out of his comfort zone on the offensive end. Ware, the former Starkville High School standout, had seven points and five rebounds in 28 minutes.
"It's embarrassing for us to not compete on the level we were capable of," Ware said. "We've been working extremely hard in practice, but it doesn't show during the game. We are in a slump, but we'll come back. We'll go back to practice and try to make the best of our situation. We still have seven more games left. We still have to continue playing."
The loss extended MSU's skid to nine, which matches the program's longest losing streak since the 1986-1987 season.
MSU will play at 4 p.m. Saturday at LSU. A loss would ensure the second-longest conference losing streak in school history.