February 25, 2014 2:30:29 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Ray said there's no need to explain to sophomore guard Fred Thomas why he didn't play Saturday in a 73-69 loss to Arkansas.
Based on Arkansas' style of play and the constant evaluation of his program, Ray wanted to experiment with a new lineup at Humphrey Coliseum. Ray believed MSU (13-14, 3-11 Southeastern Conference) was at its peak in terms of depth, so it was the perfect time to reward walk-on Tevin Moore.
"I wanted to give Tevin a look there and see how productive he can be," Ray said. "My thoughts were if Tevin wasn't productive then we'll go with Fred as the next substitution, but I thought Tevin did some nice things."
The Arkansas game marked the first time in Thomas' 58-game career he didn't play. The 6-foot-5 wing player from Jackson had started the past 16 games. In all, Thomas has started 20 games this and is averaging a team-high 29.4 minutes per game.
In place of Thomas, Moore played a career-high 17 minutes. The 6-foot-3 junior college transfer guard from Olive Branch scored five points, grabbed four rebounds, and made a 3-pointer in the first half.
"Tevin is a consummate teammate," Ray said. "Never at one time has he gotten down on himself based on his situation. Every day he comes to practice, puts on that white jersey, and he competes and plays hard. That's hard to do when you're in a situation of not playing in games."
It is unknown if Ray will go back to Thomas or continue to mix and match with MSU preparing to face Tennessee at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Humphrey Coliseum.
"What I would like to be new and fresh is a win," Ray said.
Ray expects point guards I.J. Ready and Trivante Bloodman to play against Tennessee. Ready was inadvertently poked in the eye Saturday, and further testing revealed no major damage. Bloodman missed the final 12 minutes with cramps in his leg due to a calf strain. Ray said he may hold Bloodman out of practice Monday and today for precautionary reasons, but he said the MSU training staff cleared Bloodman.
"If Trivante had to practice, he could practice," Ray said Monday "But I don't see any reason why we would do anything to have a setback with him."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.