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MSU men must improve defense to get victories

 

Danny P Smith

 

The Mississippi State men''s basketball team hasn''t had the kind of start to the second half of the Southeastern Conference season it wanted. MSU opened SEC play with victories against Arkansas, Alabama, and Vanderbilt and finished the first half of the league slate 6-2. 

 


The second eight hasn''t started so great for the Bulldogs. 

 


MSU dropped a double-overtime decision to LSU Tigers on Wednesday and suffered a 91-76 loss at Auburn on Saturday. 

 


While the losses dropped the Bulldogs to 6-4, three games behind LSU in the Western Division, coach Rick Stansbury hopes they won''t crush his team''s will. 

 


"You''ve got to move on," Stansbury said. "You can''t dwell on losses. As quick as you can put those behind you, the better off you are." 

 


With South Carolina coming to Humphrey Coliseum on Wednesday night, it''s a good idea for MSU to get the LSU and Auburn games out of its system in a hurry. 

 


If anything good can come out of the last week, MSU sophomore guard Phil Turner believes the Bulldogs can learn from their setbacks. 

 


"As long as we keep learning from our losses, we''re going to continue to get better," Turner said. "We''ve just got to stop beating ourselves in so many instances. It''s a lack of concentration during stretches and not valuing all of our possessions." 

 


The Bulldogs continue to use a four-guard starting lineup with Turner, sophomore Ravern Johnson, junior Barry Stewart, and freshman Dee Bost and junior Jarvis Varnado at center. 

 


For MSU to be successful, it must shoot the basketball well. 

 


The offense hasn''t let the Bulldogs down so much in the past two games. MSU scored 94 points against LSU and 76 points against Auburn (10 of 35 from 3-point range). Most of the time those totals will lead to wins. 

 


The trouble has been the Bulldogs gave up 97 points to LSU and 91 points to Auburn. 

 


"We can score, and that''s really not a problem for us," Turner said. "We need to concentrate more on our defense. I think we can struggle offensively and still have a chance to win if we stop (teams) from scoring." 

 


MSU is going to have a hard time outrebounding opponents. The Bulldogs have performed better in that area the past two games, but with Varnado as the only true post player in the starting lineup, it is going to be difficult to keep most teams off the boards. 

 


MSU has to tighten its perimeter defense and cause turnovers to turn loose its transition offense. 

 


The Bulldogs tend to struggle against teams with big-time scorers. They did a pretty decent job against Kentucky''s Jodie Meeks, only allowing him 15 points, but others have went off for huge numbers. 

 


In the past two losses, LSU''s Tasmin Mitchell had 41 points and Auburn''s Tay Waller (10 of 15 from the field, including 8 of 12 from 3-point range) had 32. 

 


 

 


Danny P. Smith is assistant sports editor in charge of covering Mississippi State athletics. He can be reached at: dannyp@cdispatch.com.

 

 

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