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MSU's poor play in practice led to rout

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- Rick Ray had the sinking feeling every coach experiences when his team doesn't practice well. 

 

Given that feeling, Ray could have predicted the Mississippi State University men's basketball team was going to come up short Wednesday night.  

 

After a 75-43 loss to the University of Alabama, Ray said the results was a byproduct of his players feeling satisfied with what they had accomplished in a 2-0 start to Southeastern Conference play. Ray said that mentality had seeped in to practices sessions the past two days.  

 

On Wednesday, which included a strange set of pregame events that included Humphrey Coliseum losing power less than an hour before the opening tip, MSU's suffered its fifth double-digit loss, and third by 27 or more this season. 

 

"Our guys got satisfied with where they were and we can't be that way," Ray said. "We can never be satisfied." 

 

MSU (7-8, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) worked against Alabama's half- and full-court trapping pressure defenses in practice, but the Bulldogs committed 21 turnovers Wednesday night, which led to 15 layups or dunks by the Crimson Tide (10-6, 2-1). Alabama guards Levi Randolph and Andrew Steele combined for eight steals. 

 

"Our guys left that ballhandler on an island and those other (MSU players) were making themselves available," Ray said. "I've told guys before 'You may think you're open and you are, but unless the ballhandler can see you, you're really not open.' That's what I'm talking about in terms of playing as individuals." 

 

Ray was trying to become the first MSU coach to go 3-0 in conference play in his first season in Starkville since 1936, but he said the Bulldogs' three-game winning streak ended thanks in part to his players' complacency. Ray also felt his players had a false sense of security after learning Trevor Releford, Alabama's leading scorer, was listed as doubtful. Randolph helped picked up the slack for the missing Releford with 18 points to lead four players in double figures. 

 

"I guess we kind of slacked off when we found out he wasn't playing," MSU junior guard Jalen Steele said. "I guess we shouldn't have come out and played like that. Fatigue may have played a role, but we should've fought through it and played harder than we did tonight" 

 

 

 

Pollard's return to Mississippi ends with solid effort 

 

In his first game in his home state, Devonta Pollard had seven points, two steals, and one turnover in 27 minutes. 

 

"I'm happy for him to be able to come home and get a big win and also make a huge impact on the game defensively in the paint," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.  

 

The 6-foot-8 freshman forward used his length and athleticism to help contain MSU to 18 points in the paint. MSU didn't have a front-court player score more than five points. 

 

Pollard, a five-star prospect according to most of the scouting services, led Kemper County High School to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state championship last season. He averaged 23.8 points, 15.7 rebounds, and 5.1 blocked shots, and was named Mississippi's Mr. Basketball and was invited to the McDonald's All-America Game.  

 

"For (Pollard) every practice is a learning opportunity, and that's how he is approaching it," Grant said. "He has a great chance to learn from our veteran guys, and that is extremely valuable to him. He's an extremely humble kid." 

 

Pollard considered MSU as one of his final choices. Former MSU coach Rick Stansbury and Grant were in Jackson for the Class 3A state title game. But Pollard narrowed his list of finalists to three schools in April after Stansbury announced he was stepping down as coach. 

 

SEC 

 

n No. 17 Missouri 79, Georgia 62: At Columbia, Mo., Earnest Ross scored 15 points to help Missouri rebound from its biggest loss of the season. 

 

Alex Oriakhi had 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Tigers (13-3, 2-1 SEC), who were held to a season-low 49 points in a 15-point loss Saturday at the University of Mississippi on Saturday.  

 

Vincent Williams had a career-best 23 points on 7-for-10 shooting for Georgia (6-10, 0-3), nine more than his previous best after entering with a 4.1-point average. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Bulldogs' lone player averaging in double figures, added 15 points. 

 

n South Carolina 80, LSU 73, OT: At Baton Rouge, La., Michael Carrera's 23 points led four South Carolina players in double figures as the Gamecocks defeated LSU 80-73 in overtime Wednesday night to give first-year coach Frank Martin his first SEC victory. 

 

Carrera scored 21 points after halftime, including 10 in overtime, when the Gamecocks (11-5, 1-2) outscored the Tigers 13-4. 

 

n Arkansas 88, Auburn 80: At Fayetteville, Ark., BJ Young's late 3-pointer in double overtime and Marshawn Powell's 28 points helped the Razobacks hold on. 

 

The victory was the second straight for the Razorbacks, who survived the hot-shooting Tigers and guard Frankie Sullivan's five second-half 3-pointers. 

 

The Associated Press reports were included in this report.

 

 

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