February 15, 2013 2:38:25 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE - Rick Ray has come to the conclusion that he can't motivate his Mississippi State men's basketball team anymore.
They're going to have to do it themselves.
Following a 78-36 home loss to Missouri, the worst MSU defeat in the 38-season history of Humphrey Coliseum, Ray laid out the game plan for Saturday's contest at Louisiana State University (4 p.m., ESPNU) and it doesn't have anything to do with X's and O's.
"To be quite frank, this is an embarrassing loss when you go out and you're totally inept offensively," Ray said. "You would hope that guys would have some pride in themselves and Mississippi State basketball and try to rectify that."
In the opening half of the loss to Missouri, the Bulldogs hit 4-of-25 shots from the field for 16 percent shooting. Colin Borchert broke up the shutout with a 3-point basket. That would be the only 3-point make for MSU In the first half as the Bulldogs were 1-of-9 from long range and 1-of-6 from the foul line.
"We've got to be in a game first before we can even worry about closing it out well," Ray said after the game. "They sunk in on defense and challenged us to make shots and we didn't make any."
With Fred Thomas leading MSU (7-16, 2-9 in Southeastern Conference) in scoring at 10.2 points per game, the Bulldogs are on pace to have nobody on the squad averaging double figures offensively for only the second time in program history.
"We've been through tough times this year. I'm absorbing all that I can and hopefully I'll get better," MSU point guard Trivante Bloodman said.
LSU welcomes a Bulldogs team that is on one of the program's worst losing streaks and is likely to still have just six scholarship players with junior guard Jalen Steele likely to still be on his suspension. The Tigers (14-8, 5-6) have gone in the most positive direction by winning five of their last seven games following an 0-4 start to conference play.
LSU sophomore forward leads the team in both points (12.3) and rebounds (8.5) and has earned double-double performances in seven of his last eight games. The Cleveland native just recorded a career night at South Carolina Thursday with 30 points and 10 rebounds in a 64-46 victory over the Gamecocks.
"We need Johnny to play like that," LSU guard Anthony Hickey said to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "He can get a double-double every time he steps on the floor. I've got a lot of faith in him and he's the kind of player who can carry us."
Hickey was the LSU player who made three consecutive baskets in what his coach Johnny Jones called "heroic plays" as the Hopkinsville, Ky., native took the ball 94 feet for the game-winning runner with 1.5 seconds left in regulation earlier this season. The Tigers rallied from down by as many as 17 points to escape Starkville with a 69-68 victory on Feb. 2.
Before last year's overtime loss at the Pete Maravich Center, MSU had beaten the Tigers twice in a row on the road and five of the last six times overall. A loss for the Bulldogs would represent only the fourth double-digit losing streak in program history.