Howland targets better rebounding from Bulldogs


Ben Wait



STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men's basketball coach Ben Howland wasn't happy with his team's performance Saturday in a 91-74 loss to Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. 


The Bulldogs led 38-37 early in the second half, but the Volunteers went on a run and ran away with the victory. 


Howland said he made sophomores Quinndary Weatherspoon and Aric Holman watch the film with him on the way back to Starkville. After giving his team Sunday off, Howland was excited to hit the practice floor Monday to prepare for his team's game against Missouri at 6 p.m. tonight (SEC Network) at Humphrey Coliseum. 


"We're going to have a very spirited, very competitive practice (Monday)," Howland said before Monday's practice. "When you play the way we played Saturday, the only thing that makes me feel better is after we get done with a really good practice." 


Although MSU (12-6, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) had the height advantage against Tennessee with Holman and freshman center Schnider Herard, they were outrebounded 49-35. Holman and Herard combined for 17 rebounds. Herard had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. 


Howland was really disappointed with his team's defensive effort. The Bulldogs forced only seven turnovers and allowed the Volunteers to shoot 46.3 percent (31 of 67) from the field. 


"The No. 1 principle is play hard," Howland said. "They only had seven turnovers, so we've got to do a better job. That's how this team has to play in terms of sometimes being undersized. We've got to err on the side of aggression. We were not aggressive with our defense, so we've got to do a better job." 


Freshman guard Mario Kegler said everyone was disappointed in the performance. He said the trip back to Starkville was somber. 


Although Howland gave the team Sunday off, Kegler said he came to the gym Sunday morning and worked on his game. He said he wanted to rebuild his confidence. 


MSU has been outrebounded 657-626. Blocking out and working on rebounding has been an emphasis for Howland for most of the season. Kegler feels like giving effort will help, too. 


"I say just put yourself in position," said Kegler said, who is averaging 5.5 rebounds per game. "If you see somebody take a shot, you've got to work before the ball hits the rim to put yourself in a good position." 


MSU entered last week on a three-game winning streak, but it has lost its last two games. Freshman guard Tyson Carter, who had nine points against Tennessee, said the Bulldogs need to have the same mind-set they had during the winning streak. 


"We've got to keep going hard in practice and keep getting better," Carter said. "We've got to get back to what won us those games. We started rebounding better and defending better, and that's why we won those games." 


Missouri (5-13, 0-6) has lost 10 in a row, but Howland said he has seen a team that never gives up, which worries him. Junior forward Jordan Barnett is averaging 11.9 points per game, while sophomore forward Kevin Puryear is averaging 11.8. 


Howland said he is looking for his team to be more physical in practice and to take pride in its preparation. 


"The best teams I've coached are really competing against each other and going at each other in between the lines," Howland said. 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait


Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.


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