December 31, 2009 8:04:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
One statistic really bothers Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury.
When a Stansbury-coached team gets outrebounded like it did Monday night against Mississippi Valley State (45-44), it concerns him.
Even though the Bulldogs defeated the Delta Devils 73-45, they also shot less than 40 percent (39.3 percent) for the third time this season.
Stansbury wasn''t fond of that number, either.
Stansbury said having one practice after the players'' return from Christmas break contributed to MSU''s lack of execution.
"That''s to be expected, but it doesn''t mean you like it," Stansbury said.
The Bulldogs left at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday on another cross-country trip and will play the University of San Diego at 6 p.m. today. The Toreros beat the Bulldogs 64-61 in overtime last year.
Stansbury hopes MSU (11-2) didn''t take its struggles in rebounding and shooting to San Diego.
"Hopefully we''ve learned and gotten better," Stansbury said. "I know it''s human nature some, but we''ve got to get ready to play a very good San Diego team."
Stansbury said San Diego''s 6-8 record isn''t important because it has defeated Oklahoma and Houston this season. The Toreros defeated Savannah State 63-56 on Tuesday.
Stansbury believes injuries have prevented the Toreros from having a better record.
Sophomore point guard Dee Bost said the Bulldogs must "adjust to the time (difference) and get ready to play." He doesn''t want to use the Christmas break as an excuse and said "we''re just trying to get back into the groove."
Bost (10.5 points per game) is one of four MSU starters averaging in double figures. Junior guard Ravern Johnson (15.4 ppg.), senior center Jarvis Varnado (13.4 ppg.), and senior guard Barry Stewart (12 ppg.) lead the Bulldogs.
Stansbury continues to be pleased with Johnson''s defensive effort.
"Rav''s gotten better at both ends," Stansbury said. "He''s gotten a whole lot better defensively for us. As you know his freshman year and even last year, it was a struggle. He''s taken some pride in his (defense) and has taken a challenge.
"I thought against Centenary and (David) Perez he really guarded that cat. He''s contesting shots very well. We''ve been on him so long about his defense and now he''s doing something about it."
Johnson said his focus on developing a winning attitude has helped him on both ends of the floor. He knows the Bulldogs will have to play with that mind-set to beat San Diego and set the stage for the Southeastern Conference schedule.
"We''ve got to go out there with an attitude we''re going to win," Johnson said. "We''ve just got to finish (the year) strong and build on the momentum we have going into SEC play."