SEC defense, right?
Mississippi State struggled to score offensively, but they managed to hold Texas San Antonio in check defensively, winning a low-scoring contest 53-42 in The Hump.
The Roadrunners struggled to move the ball, often settling for long-range shots, as the Bulldogs forced a pair of early shot clock violations.
“The defensive effort was tremendous,” Rick Ray said. “I know it’s not pretty offensively, but we’re gonna grind out and win some ugly basketball games.”
It wasn’t all low-key on offense, though, as Wendell Lewis is getting on something of a hot streak. The senior forward got MSU’s first double-double of the season over the weekend against Providence and put up a career-high 20 points tonight.
Lewis struggled early in the season and was even benched for freshman Gavin Ware a few games back. Lewis said earlier in the week he took the demotion hard in his first game to come off the bench, but said he had a long conversation with one of his coaches and decided to make the most of what he had.
The talk seemed to work.
“I’ve been in a good mood,” Lewis said. “Staying positive.”
Said freshman guard Fred Thomas, “he’s out of the slump.”
Thomas had nine points himself and fellow freshman guard Criag sWord chipped in 13 to go along with three assists, one block and one steal, though he gave up six turnovers, which he said was his biggest issue to work on.
Sword said Lewis’ recent stretch of scoring heavily in the post has both helped open things up on the perimeter, as well as relieved some of the pressure on distance shooters to get points.
Defensively, MSU forced 20 Roadrunner turnovers and held them to 27.3 percent shooting from the floor.
“We work hard on defense in practice,”sWord said. “That’s all we talk about.”
“They’re always on us about defense,” Lewis said. “Most players don’t like being pressured.”
Ray joked that he does talk to his team about offense, too, but that they must be tuning it out when he tells them their taking bad shots.
Going forward, the Bulldogs have 10 days off before their next game. Much of that time will be spent studying, as the players have final exams next week.
However, as far as basketball is concerned, Ray said he will use this rare opportunity to get some personal teaching in with his guys.
“We’re gonna have two or three days where we do nothing but individual work,” Ray said. “We have to take this opportunity as coaches to get our guys better.”
Whether it’s working with freshman forward Gavin Ware on his post moves or sWord on his turnovers, Ray said he’ll bring them in one at a time for a coaching session to develop his players skills as SEC play waits on the other side of December.
The good news for his players: Ray is in a good mood entering the break, getting the defensive win he so strongly desired.
“We’d been talking to our guys that we’ve gotta go out and win some ugly basketball games,” Ray said.