January 10, 2011 12:51:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- While Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney gained most of the headlines before and after Mississippi State''s loss to Alabama, leading scorer Ravern Johnson''s ongoing shooting slump flew under the radar.
The senior wing-man entered Saturday''s Southeastern Conference opener on a 23 for 73 shooting dip that spanned the team''s dismal five-game road trip.
In a 75-57 loss to the Crimson Tide, Johnson finished 3 of 16 from the floor and scored just eight points. He didn''t attempt a free throw and had only two rebounds and a block in 40 minutes of work.
Johnson was hampered by illness and didn''t practice for three days during the team''s time at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
With an undermanned squad, teams began to defend him differently during MSU''s stops in the Bahamas, Hawaii and Las Vegas.
The roster shake-up and returns of Bost and Sidney also have affected his performance, head coach Rick Stansbury said Monday.
"Last night at home, there was a lot of tightness in the whole team," Stansbury said during the SEC teleconference. "And just the newness of Dee being out there and Sid, I didn''t think our rhythm and chemistry was very good."
Johnson had much of his early season success as the first option, but against lower-level competition.
The Bulldogs play at Ole Miss on Thursday.
Now, Johnson must find his way back to form with Bost back at point guard and Sidney starting at center.
As was a theme of his 11-minute block of the teleconference, Stansbury said "rhythm" between all of his players will help raise individual performances.
But in the case of Johnson, who is 9 of 43 from behind the 3-point line over the last six games, ryhthm between he and Bost could be most pivotal.
Bost''s ability to get into the lane and kick-out to Johnson was a recipe for success last season, but Stansbury would like to see Johnson continue to drive to the basket.
Johnson had 15 free throw attempts against St. Mary''s but didn''t get to the line against Alabama.
"No question when Dee gets his rhythm he''s going to create open shots for him and do some things different," Stansbury said. "I think right now, were just kind of in between both -- Dee figure his out a little bit, which is gonna take time, and Ravern figuring out his balance with Dee back and Sid back."
-------- Stansbury looking ahead
Monday''s teleconference had two themes whenever Stansbury was asked about his team overcoming Saturday''s 18-point loss to Alabama: Rhythm and Chemistry.
Stansbury didn''t feel like his team had enough of either against the Crimson Tide, but more importantly he isn''t sure when his team will have optimal levels of both.
He''s got Bost coming off his first game of the season and Sidney working through fatigue in his first handful of collegiate games.
Two less players are on the squad from when the Bulldogs started the season and the they''ve lost five of six games.
Going on the road to cure those woes -- MSU plays Thursday at Ole Miss -- is tough sledding, Stansbury said.
"We had a good week of preparation," Stansbury said. "It''s just our situation is so different. So much newness and trying to put it all together right now. And you gotta do it in SEC play. There''s just no time to wait."
Stansbury stopped short of predicting how good the Bulldogs could be once at top form, but said he expects the team to be a "very competitive basketball team" when the season''s over.
How long that process takes depends on Bost and Sidney working through conditioning issues and young players growing into bigger roles.
"I wish I had the answer for that," Stansbury said. "You hope your timetable is sooner than later, for sure. How log does it take? I still think Dee''s timetable will be quicker. His rhythm will come quicker. The next game he plays, he shouldn''t have as much mental adjustment. Physically, it''ll still be a challenge for him. When the physical challenge is not there for him anymore, I don''t know."