February 11, 2014 7:20:52 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Georgia men's basketball coach Mark Fox says he doesn't like to and won't play much zone defense.
Mississippi State coach Rick Ray isn't buying that story.
In his coaching tenure at Nevada and Georgia, Fox's defensive style has been defined by the man-to-man technique with long, athletic defenders. This strategy would certainly be accepted by the home team in Humphrey Coliseum when MSU (13-10, 3-7 in Southeastern Conference) hosts Georgia for a 8 p.m. tip. The homestanding Bulldogs will be looking to a snap a five-game losing streak.
In Monday's media teleconference, Fox said he resists playing zone defense whenever possible.
"With all the zone we've seen this season, I'll believe that one when I see it Wednesday night," Ray said to local media Monday. "Normally coaches would prefer to not play any form of zone but then again, coaches will do anything to win through the course of a game."
Georgia (12-10, 6-4) is third in the SEC in field goal percentage in conference games at allowing just 67.1 points per game. Fox's squad comes to Starkville riding the momentum of a two-game winning streak after turning back LSU and Texas A&M last week. Charles Mann leads UGA in scoring at 13.5 points, while Marcus Thornton is tops on the boards at 5.8.
"I just feel like I would not play zone if I don't have to," Fox said. "I would hope we don't have to because that would mean we're successful in our man."
MSU's offensive struggles have been predominately because their inability to hit outside shots and the fact that Ray said last week he's seen more zone defenses than he ever has in his coaching career.
"I think I've told somebody recently in conversation that I've never seen as much zone defenses as we've seen this year," Ray said after the loss at Vanderbilt.
One of the frustrations with the MSU offensive drop is the lack of trips to the free throw line as the Bulldogs are tied with the third lowest attempts from the charity stripe.
"We've talked about finding the holes to the zones and making shots early in games in order to make the defense come out and guard us," MSU sophomore guard Craig Sword said.
Sword's 13.2 points per game leads the MSU in scoring and the sophomore is fourth in the SEC in steals at 2.0 per game.
According to MSU spokesperson Gregg Ellis, the Georgia team has braved the winter storm warnings in the Starkville area by flying to the Golden Triangle area despite hundreds of flights in the Atlanta area being canceled.
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.