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MSU preparing to face Arkansas

January 22, 2013

Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Ray has seen his team give up 72 and 75 points in the last two games. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

The Mississippi State men's basketball team has not had much success when getting in a track meet with other teams.

The Bulldogs are 0-6 for the season when opponents shoot 45 percent or better from the floor, but are 5-0 when they shoot 45 percent or better.

MSU (7-9, 2-2) travels to Fayetteville, Ark. today to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (11-6, 2-2). Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. and can be seen on CSS.

"I just think the other team is scoring too many points," MSU head coach Rick Ray said in his Monday press conference. "We've had success when we hold people in the 50s, but we're holding people in the 70s the last couple of games and that's too many points because we struggle on the offensive end."

In the Bulldogs last two Southeastern Conference games, they have given up an average of 73.5 points. They lost to Alabama 75-43 last week and dropped a 72-57 decision to Tennessee on the road on Saturday.

"I don't know if we can consistently score 70 points in order to beat a team, so those are the things we're going to concentrate on here in these next couple of days of practice trying to get ready for Arkansas," Ray said.

The Bulldogs have been outscored in the paint 80-34 in the two SEC losses.

A big reason MSU is being dominated on the inside is there are not enough bodies. After senior Wendell Lewis went down with a knee injury, that left Starkville native and freshman Gavin Ware as the only real post threat.

Ware is averaging eight points per game and just over seven rebounds, but he is still learning and finds himself in foul trouble early.

"We have to figure out a way to keep our post guys from getting in foul trouble early in the first half," Ray said. "Obviously we're low with our depth and our numbers. We can take maybe one guy getting two quick fouls, but in the past couple of games, we've gotten two guys with two quick fouls. That just makes us a really small team with Tyson Cunningham playing the four-spot."

The Bulldogs are 3-1 this season when they win the rebounding war. 

"We just can't have success defensively rebounding with that rotation," Ray said. "We have to do something as far as improving our post defense or helping those post guys out with some sort of post-trap or digging the ball out of there so those guys don't get early foul trouble."

The lack of depth has also affected what MSU can do in practice. There is nobody on the team that Ware can go up against that matches him.

"There's nobody else for Gavin to go again in practice that's like him," Ray said. "Roquez (Johnson) and Colin (Borchert) do what they're supposed to do in practice as far as battling with him, but he's just so much bigger and stronger than those two guys."

The Razorbacks are coming off a 76-64 loss to Ole Miss on the road on Saturday. A week ago, Arkansas beat Auburn 88-80 in double overtime at home.

The Razorbacks are led by sophomore B.J. Young. Young is averaging 17.2 points per game. Junior forward Marshawn Powell averages 15.2 points per outing. There is no other Razorback averaging double digits.

"I think Young is a guy that is just hard to keep out of the paint," Ray said. "Once again it's not going to be a one-man effort with Young. Our guys have got to move to Young and they've got to move to Powell, whether Powell is in the post or on the perimeter. I think he's a problem."

The Bulldogs are led by junior guard Jalen Steele's 11.1 points per game. Johnson has a 10.8 clip per outing and freshman guard Fred Thomas averages 10.3 points per contest. 

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