Bulldogs staying positive after two SEC losses

Mississippi State freshmen Reggie Perry (1) and Robert Woodard II celebrate a play during the Ole Miss game.

Staff Writer

It was a tale of two locker rooms on Saturday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum.

After Ole Miss upset No. 14 Mississippi State 81-77, the Rebels celebrated loudly on one end of a lower hall inside the Humphrey Coliseum. At the other end, the Bulldogs were dealing with a second-straight loss to open up their Southeastern Conference slate.

MSU was left to wonder what could have been if it could have just gotten a couple of more shots to fall or another defensive stop or two.

“This is a tough loss, because (Ole Miss is) a good team and it would have been a really good win for the resume,” Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said. “It’s a tough one.”

What MSU can’t afford is for its Saturday defeat to snowball into more losses down the line. To State’s credit, the Bulldogs seemed to remain upbeat post game.

Yes, Mississippi State has hit its first rough patch this year, but there is a belief it won’t last long.

“We know how good we are,” freshman Bulldog Reggie Perry said. “We’re going to continue to work hard. We’re going to stay uplifted and practice hard and I think coach Howland is going to do a good job with us.”

MSU has plenty of reasons for optimism. Before losing a pair of close games this past week, the Bulldogs looked to be on a surefire path to their first NCAA Tournament berth in a decade. MSU already has big wins – a road victory at Dayton and a home triumph against Cincinnati among them.

The Bulldogs know they can hang with anyone on any given night.

Still, there are things for MSU to work on. Howland continues to insist his defense must improve. That was illustrated on Saturday as Ole Miss shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

Howland also thinks his team has to do a better job at handling emotions after he thought the Bulldogs struggled in that department against the Rebels.

“We need to be able to be a little more stoic and be consistent and not get high or get low but be consistent and play hard,” Howland said.

MSU will have a chance to try and improve those areas and erase the disappointments of last week starting Tuesday. That’s when the Bulldogs return to action with a 6 p.m. home game against Florida.

Sure, the Gators could send MSU into an even deeper spiral should another loss occur. However the Bulldogs aren't thinking that way. It’s a long season and they are determined that the last two games won’t define them.

“We’ve got to keep our heads up,” Perry said. “It’s just the first two games. We’ve got 16 more to go.”