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Mississippi State takes momentum to Georgia

January 11, 2013

Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Ray, right, talks with Fred Thomas (1) and Jalen Steele during last Wednesday's game against South Carolna. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

The Mississippi State men's basketball team is looking to do something they have not done in three years.

The Bulldogs (6-7, 1-0) look to open the Southeastern Conference season with a 2-0 record when they travel to Athens, Ga., to take on Georgia (6-8, 0-1) today.

Tip is set for 12:47 p.m. inside Stegeman Coliseum for the battle of the Bulldogs. 

MSU opened the SEC schedule with a 56-54 victory over South Carolina at home on Wednesday. Georgia dropped a 77-44 road decision to No. 11 (Associated Press) Florida on Wednesday night.

State did not practice Thursday. Instead, coach Rick Ray decided to give the Bulldogs off.

"The next two days for us will be more about mental preparation for than physical preparation," Ray said. "It would be not smart on my part to go out and try to have a hard-core two hour practice after all the energy they exerted in this ballgame.

"I'm not rewarding them for winning, I'm not punishing them for losing, but it's just a fact of the matter that we have to have a mental preparation day. We will watch the tape, talk about the positives and the negatives, but more importantly start talking about what we need to do to get ready for Georgia. Those guys have to lock in."

MSU's win over the Gamecocks was a defensive struggle. The Bulldogs forced 24 turnovers, but turned the ball over 17 times themselves.
Ray sees this as the way his team is going to compete.

"That is going to be the way all the time, not just this year," Ray said. "That's the way conference basketball is. We spent so much time scouting the opponent, it becomes a half court game. The way basketball is – it's lower scoring and it's a grind. There is not going to be very many opportunities to be high-scoring blowout affairs. That's just college basketball these days."

The MSU Bulldogs sport a young roster. They have several freshman and sophomores making significant contributions this season. The lone senior, Wendell Lewis, injured his knee earlier this season and is not expected to be back.

"The thing that I'm so happy about for our guys is they have been playing really hard in practice," Ray said. "(They have been) competing and trying to do the the things we've been telling them is the right way to go about playing basketball. For them to start seeing some success on the court because of how hard we go in practice, it's good for our team. Now they understand if they play this hard and do things the right way you've got a chance to win ballgames."

Georgia beat MSU twice last year, including a victory in Starkville and a first round win in the SEC Tournament. Georgia has won three meetings in a row against MSU, but have not won four-straight since 1989-91.

Georgia is led by sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's 17 points per game. He is the only Peach State Bulldog to be averaging double figures in scoring.

Sophomore forward Nemanja Djurisic is averaging 8.2 points per game this season.

MSU is led by sophomore forward Roquez Johnson, who is averaging 12.5 points per game. Freshman guard Fred Thomas is sporting a 10.2 points per outing. Junior guard Jalen Steele is averaging 9.6 points per game.

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