January 25, 2014 11:11:33 PM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
OXFORD -- Rick Ray needed just three words to describe the Mississippi State men's basketball team's trip to Tad Smith Coliseum on Saturday night.
"We didn't compete," Ray said with his head down.
The second-year MSU coach has talked repeatedly about how important it is for his team to understand its identity and to know what it needs to do every game to be successful. Those two things have changed depending on where the Bulldogs play.
At home in Starkville, MSU gets to the free throw line, gets to the basket off the dribble drive, and makes its opponents take a lot of contested shots. Away from Humphrey Coliseum, like in an 82-63 loss to Ole Miss, MSU has done none of those things consistently.
"Every time we go and play somebody good on the road, it's not even a ballgame," Ray said. "I have no idea (why). If I knew that, I'd try to adjust, (but) I can't put my thumb on it."
MSU lost the battle in points in the paint, committed more turnovers, and lost nearly every hustle category in its 12th-straight road loss.
MSU (13-6, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) saw its record drop to 0-4 in true road games this season. The last time MSU has gone this long without winning a true road game was the 1996-97 season. That team finished 11-18.
"When we're away (from home) we let them smack us in the mouth, but when we're at home, we always throw the first punch," MSU freshman point guard IJ Ready said.
The last time MSU won a true road game was a 72-61 victory at Georgia on Jan. 12, 2013, when the Bulldogs started 2-0 in league play but then dropped their next 14 conference games.
In the first half, Ole Miss (14-5, 5-1) used non-stop penetration against multiple defenses. Its guards accounted for 28 of the team's 38 points in the first 20 minutes. The Bulldogs only took five free throws in the first half (6 of 14 for the game) as opposed to the 42 they took earlier this month in a 76-72 victory against Ole Miss in Starkville.
After being the sole offensive weapon for Ole Miss in the first meeting, Jarvis Summers (19 points on 6-of-11 shooting) went back to being the perfect complementary scorer.
"I was glad to see an adjustment from game one to game two against them because we wanted to make a concerted effort to keep them in front of us and off the foul line today," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "I'm proud of the progression of the young players on this team and the leadership of a Jarvis Summers."
With 16 minutes, 9 seconds remaining, Ray removed all five starters with his team down 45-30. For nearly four minutes MSU played with three walk-ons (Tyson Cunningham, Tevin Moore, and De'Runnya Wilson) as Ole Miss stretched the lead to more than 20 points.
Ole Miss senior guard Marshall Henderson, who missed the game in Starkville due to a school-mandated suspension, was one of two Rebels with 19 points despite being just 2 of 12 from 3-point range.
Henderson's ability to take whatever defender guarded him to the basket infuriated Ray.
"There's no reason on Earth that we should be beaten off the bounce by Marshall Henderson," Ray said. "I understand when he's coming off all these screens, but you can't get beat off the bounce. That's inexcusable."
Ready and Roquez Johnson led the team with 13 points. Ready was 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
The 19-point margin of victory was Ole Miss' largest against a SEC opponent since an 88-55 victory against Auburn on Feb. 23, 2013 in Oxford. In his two trips to Tad Smith Coliseum, Ray has lost by an average of 18.5 points.
"I'm upset, and I don't know what the mood in the locker room is because I didn't give them an opportunity to see what the mood is," Ray said. "We have to find a way to compete on the road."
The road doesn't get any easier for MSU, which will play host to No. 6 Florida (17-2, 6-0) at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Gators are the only SEC team with a perfect conference record.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.