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Ready aims for return to lineup against Georgia

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- IJ Ready has no cause to feel the way he did medically and emotionally Saturday while in the Humphrey Coliseum training room.  

 

The Mississippi State freshman point guard said Monday he "felt he let his team down" when he was unable to play during the Bulldogs 69-59 loss to Kentucky this past weekend. The fact remains Ready had no control over his 103-degree fever he had obtained by warmups Saturday morning and was even willing to play with a temperature of 100.  

 

"I felt like I could've done something to prevent it even though I didn't even know (the fever) was coming," Ready said. "I was proud of my team because of course we're going to fight every game especially when you're the underdog." 

 

Ready, who even as a 18-year old first-year player considers himself a leader on this MSU team, was forced to lay on the training room couch and watch the television broadcast of MSU's fifth straight loss.  

 

"I was in the training room and I could hear the crowd yell 'ooh' after a play and then waited to see what happened on TV," Ready said. "The energy level was high. Their size wore us down a little bit." 

 

MSU coach Rick Ray said if it wasn't for the training staff monitoring his body temperature after the morning walkthrough, Ready would've easily tried to force himself to play even at less than 100 percent health. Ray has said repeatedly Ready personifies the winning spirit the Bulldogs coach saw his team have Saturday even without the freshman point guard. 

 

"Like the old adage says the tape doesn't lie, well, the thermometer doesn't lie in this situation," Ray said. "If our guys says he's running a fever, then that's it, end of story. Without that thermometer, IJ Ready would've said he's good and ready to play." 

 

Ready, who is averaging 6.4 points and 3.1 assists, has missed a total of seven games this season due to injury or illness. These missed chances at playing time on a already thin roster has noticeably hampered Ready's development in his first season of college basketball. 

 

"He hasn't a chance to mature and have a full season to mature like most point guards and freshman do," Ray said.  

 

Ready said Monday his fever broke late Sunday and the 165-pound guard expects to play Wednesday night when MSU (13-10, 3-7 in Southeastern Conference) hosts Georgia for an 8:04 p.m. tip.  

 

"I'm over my fever and while I still don't feel completely myself, all I have to do is take my medicine and drink fluids," Ready said. "I need to listen to the trainers and doctor right now to help my team out. That's all I want to do right now." 

 

Ready provides MSU with a consistent outside shot as he has converted on 43.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the three-point arc. These threat of outside shooting can counter the amount of zone defenses MSU is expected to see for the rest of the season. Even after Georgia coach Mark Fox saying during the SEC teleconference Monday that he prefers to not play any zone, Ray isn't convinced that will be his strategy tomorrow night.  

 

"I think if we're seeing zone, that means we're having some form of success against a man defense because most coaches would prefer to not play zone but will do anything to win," Ray said.  

 

MSU will be looking to end a season-long five game losing streak but may have to wait at least a day to accomplish such a feat. Ray confirmed he had conversations with MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin Monday about the school's contingency plan in case weather in the area forced a postponement.  

 

"(Stricklin) says he is going to get with his people and I think it has a lot to do with TV as well," Ray said. "He's going to figure this out and come back to me with it. I told him I don't want to talk about all that stuff because all I'm focused on is getting ready for Georgia." 

 

Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.

 

 

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