Two games remain in the regular season for coach Rick Stansbury and his Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Two weeks ago, State appeared to be a lock for the NCAA tournament, now it needs the two games against South Carolina and Arkansas to fall in the win column in order to have a chance to make the Big Dance.
Tonight, the Bulldogs (19-10, 6-8) take the court in Columbia, S.C., to face the Gamecocks (10-18, 2-12) and they’ll do so short-handed and fractured.
Already missing Rodney Hood due to a bruised knee suffered against Kentucky, they’ll now be without reserve guard Shaun Smith who broke a finger against Alabama on Saturday.
This appears to compound the frustration already felt as a result of the current five-game losing streak.
"These last five games we haven't been playing like a team," said Arnett Moultrie who leads the team with 16.7 points per game. "Everybody got their own agendas. I see how they come up here and say how bad they want to win and how bad they want to go to the Final Four but everybody doesn't work as hard as they say they want to win.
“That's the most disappointing thing is knowing we're capable of much more than what we're showing right now. A five-game losing streak is unprecedented at any level of basketball especially with all this talent."
Mississippi State must come together as a team if they hope to keep their season’s goals alive and do so quickly.
Stansbury understands you must look past South Carolina’s record to see it's a team that can present MSU with significant problems.
"They are very athletic and like to get up and down the court," Stansbury said. "While they have lost a lot of games, they've been close. They just haven't been able to close at the end."
The Bulldogs haven’t been below .500 in league play since the 2006 season, they’ll need to win tonight to keep those hopes alive and the team is fully aware of that fact.
"We know what position we've put ourselves in after losing these last couple of games in a row," senior guard Brian Bryant said. "As a team, we're taking it upon ourselves to find out what the problem is within the team on our own without the coach. We're pretty confident about the future."
The Gamecocks are riding a losing streak of their own which stands at three games, and they’ll look to end that streak by leaning on their leading scorers of Mailik Cooke and Bruce Ellington at 12.4 and 10.8 points per outing, respectively.
The opening tip is set for 7 p.m. on the SEC Network with Clay Matvick and Barry Booker taking care of the broadcast duties.