January 21, 2014 9:30:12 PM
STARKVILLE - When asked about the status of IJ Ready for the third time in four days, MSU coach Rick Ray simply shook his head.
Ray said Ready, the Bulldogs freshman point guard, has been unable to participate in any practice since suffering a concussion in the loss at Alabama on Jan. 15. Due to his lack of activity this week, Ray didn't set much likelihood that the 5-foot-11 guard would see the floor tonight against Auburn (7 p.m., ESPN3).
"He's still out and their hasn't been a change with him at all," Ray said.
This is Ready's second injury in the 2013-14 season Wednesday night after the Little Rock, Ark. native missed four games early in November with a severely strained hamstring. Saturday marked the fifth game he's missed this season because of a injury.
"It's totally on the hands of the medical staff and he'll go get a (concussion) test and then those results will be reported to me," Ray said. "The fact he hasn't done anything in a long time makes me believe he won't be available."
Ready is averaging 5.8 points per game, 3.25 assists per game and averaging 47.6 percent from three-point range. MSU will have to rely on the backup duo of Trivante Bloodman and Jacoby Davis when they host the Tigers (8-7, 0-4 in SEC).
"Jacoby is a real aggressive and is still under control but with IJ he's real smart, which allows him to make plays," Bloodman said. "I'm just a mixture of both. What we all need to concentrate on right now is feeding the post because that's been working."
Ray said Tuesday he's hoping the guards can handle Auburn's scoring perimeter punch of Chris Denson and KT Harrell. The Tigers guards are first and third in the SEC in scoring and averaging 38.4 points per game.
With Craig Sword and Fred Thomas needing to exert more energy on the defensive end, MSU (12-5, 2-2 in SEC) must get contributions from a third scoring option against a Auburn defense that is allowing 70 points per game and given up 80 points three times this season.
"I would of course, like to get a consistent game out of all of our players," Ray said with a laugh. "What I think will be most critical though is allowing our defense to dictate our transition and I think we're among the best in the SEC in creating those steals."
Barbee likes the mindset despite 0-4 start: Auburn coach Tony Barbee is preaching the worst thing that could happen to his team is losing their confidence after a 0-4 start to league play.
"The mindset has been great," Barbee said during Monday's SEC teleconference. "This is a different group. We've got great chemistry. The guys like playing together. We're playing hard. We're playing tough. We haven't had that breakthrough moment, but it's coming because of the character and makeup of these individuals on this team. It's coming, but we've got to stay the course, keep doing what we're doing."
Auburn has already had a tough road, playing four of the top six teams in the SEC, the most in the league, according to Monday's RPI rankings. Georgia has played three of the league's top six RPI teams. Seven teams have played two of those teams. Three have played one of those teams. Two have played none.
Auburn lost to Missouri and Ole Miss by three points or less. The Tigers was within five of Tennessee with two minutes left before losing by 11 and was within three points of No. 6 Florida with a minute left before losing by seven Saturday. Auburn is 0-2 against Top 25 RPI teams, but that's not too far off the SEC norm. The entire league is 4-22 against Top 25 teams.
Bulldogs to see high powered scorers: MSU's defense is about to see three of the highest frequency scorers in the next three day stretch.
The Bulldogs sunk-in zone defense may be tested with the shooting prowess of Auburn's KT Harrell and Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson. With MSU switches to a man-to-man defense, Ray is concerned with the help defense from the wings when guarding the three-point line.
"We've already talked it needs to be a 5-on-1 effort anytime any of those guys catch the basketball," Sword said. "The thing we have to harken back to is we didn't follow the scouting report against Trevor Releford against Alabama."
Mississippi State is 8-2 this season when teams shoots less than 45 percent and in the Bulldogs' 12 wins this season, opponents are shooting 29.2 percent from three-point arc.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
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