November 28, 2012 9:36:30 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Think before you act.
This is the message Mississippi State University men's basketball coach Rick Ray is trying to impose on his young basketball team after what he called a "disappointing" winless experience last week at the Maui Invitational.
"The thing that is most concerning for me is playing smarter than the other team (because) we continually put ourselves in a hole by turning the ball over," Ray said Monday. "I know we have a young, inexperienced team, but the worst thing you can do on offense is give the ball to the other team. We have to get that rectified if we are going to beat anybody that's a quality opponent."
MSU (1-4) is averaging 18.6 turnovers per game, and had two games of more than 20 (vs. University of North Carolina and vs. Marquette University) in the tournament in Hawaii.
"(Coach Ray) wants us to work more as a team (and) he wants his players to be less selfish," MSU sophomore point guard Trivante Bloodman said. "He doesn't want anybody to go for themself. He wants everybody to come together, pass the ball to each other, and just work as a team."
Bloodman, who has started all five games at point guard for MSU, is one of six players on the roster who has a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, a statistic Ray feels is holding his team back from being competitive.
"The most important thing is our guys understand the significance of the fact we are not giving our self a chance to win if we don't keep guys off the offensive glass and if we don't do a better job of taking care of the basketball," Ray said.
In the first half of its 89-62 loss to Marquette, MSU had one assist and 15 turnovers due to a lack of ball movement in its half-court motion offense. The Bulldogs allowed 29 first-half points off turnovers. MSU's lack of depth also is becoming a problem when it comes to long-term instruction and productivity in games. The Bulldogs had just eight active players available at the Maui Invitational.
"We have guys that have never played college basketball before and they are going to make mistakes," Ray said. "We don't have the opportunity to take those guys out and talk to them about the mistakes and then put them back in. I think our guys are trying to do the right thing, but they need to be taken out and corrected and then put back in. I just don't have the opportunity to take those guys out."
Freshman guard Craig Sword has struggled the most with turnovers this season. The Mobile, Ala., native has five assists and a team-high 21 turnovers. Injuries have forced Sword to play out of position at point guard in his first five games. He is shooting 27.3 percent from the field and 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
"I gave Duke as a great example of guys who define their roles," Ray said. "You have guys going to Duke that are McDonald's All-Americans and they end up becoming basically guys that set a lot of screens and go get offensive rebounds. Sometimes guys get their feelings hurt by knowing what their actual role is on the team. Do you want to be a guy out there taking shots or do you want to try to help the team win?"
MSU will play host to Alcorn State tonight
MSU will look to get back on the winning track at 7 tonight when it plays hosts to Alcorn State University (2-4).
The programs are meeting for the fifth time. MSU won 120-65 the last time the teams met 12 years ago. That point total is the fourth highest in school history, and the third-most at Humphrey Coliseum.
LeAntwan Luckett (14.7 points per game) and Anthony Evans (13.2 ppg.) lead Alcorn State, which lost to Division II Fort Valley State University earlier this season.
"They're a team that likes to get in the paint with dribble-drive execution," Ray said. "That's the big thing we have problems with in terms of not fouling."
MSU saw a heavy dose of the dribble-drive offense against Marquette. The Golden Eagles shot 7-for-11 from 3-point range and held a 38-33 rebounding edge.
"I think when we face dribble drive, they take those shots when we're trying to help," Ray said. "Guys crash the glass and then we're at disadvantage in terms of defensive rebounding."
Borchert suspension over; will be one of eight active players tonight
MSU junior forward Colin Borchert's three-game suspension from the Maui Invitational has been served and the former East Mississippi Community College standout re-joined the team last weekend in practice.
Borchert was suspended for what the school called a violation of team rules. He didn't accompany the team to Hawaii. The Phoenix, Ariz., native, a junior college All-America transfer from EMCC, started MSU's first two games and is averaging 5.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in 27.5 minutes a game. Borchert will bring the active players for MSU back to nine, with six of them on scholarship.
"(His return) will help a lot especially with energy," Bloodman said. "He brings a lot of energy and he's vocal."
Ray said Monday the suspension wasn't meant to send a message about off-the-court accountability, but the Bulldogs know Ray is serious about discipline after bringing only eight players to play against the University of North Carolina, Marquette, and the University of Texas.
"Whether or not it sends a message to me is not the result I'm looking for," Ray said. "I'm trying to make sure we set some rules and standards guys have to live up to. Those are the repercussions more so than anything it hurts the individual, but also hurts the team."