MSU basketball coach Rick Ray spoke for a solid seven minutes on the SEC coaches teleconference this morning. His Bulldogs (8-20, 3-13 SEC) are coming off a big win over rival Ole Miss on Saturday and now face a road test at South Carolina on Wednesday). I’ve got the full transcript of Ray’s chat right here.
“I’m really pleased with the effort and the way our guys went out and played on Saturday against Ole Miss. We had lost 13 straight games there and our guys could have pitched it in and not given the effort and packed up the season, but the guys came out and played hard, executed the game plan well and just went out and played with a lot of heart.
“The other thing: I was looking at our stats and I couldn’t believe this myself. We had played the last six SEC games with no one with any experience that’s ever played in the SEC before. We had suspensions there with Jalen Steele and Roquez Johnson. That means we really didn’t have anybody with SEC experience. I’m just happy our guys have bounced back from that, and hopefully we can use this as a stepping stone going to play at South Carolina.”
On the impact of Roquez Johnson returning to the lineup after a three-game suspension:
“First of all, we go from six scholarship players to seven scholarship players. That in itself is a huge boost, but not just that. We played the past three games with Tyson Cunningham, a walk-on at 6-2, as the back-up big man – whether it be the four or the five. It gives you a presence there. The other thing is Roquez came back and played the way that he has been playing at the beginning of the season. We had extensive talks during the suspension about his past play wasn’t acceptable as far as him making hustle plays. He needs to be an energy guy for us, and he needs to be a hustle play guy. I showed him some clips of the way Shavon Coleman for LSU has been playing for them. I told him he needs to be that type of energy basketball player, not only for us to be good but for him to be good.”
On confidence heading into South Carolina, a team MSU has already beaten (56-54 on Jan. 9 in Starkville):
“You know what, I don’t want to hearken back on that South Carolina win because what happened is we forced so many turnovers (24) and scored a lot of points off of turnovers (28), so we’re going to have to find another way to win the ball game. I don’t imagine South Carolina will turn the basketball over that much against us again. We’re going to have to find a way to manufacture some points and get another way to win. We’ve got motivation in that regard because I just don’t think South Carolina will turn the basketball over that much against us again.”
With a chance to win out and improve SEC Tournament seeding, do guys have extra jolt of motivation to finish strong?
“I hope I’m not over-speaking here, but I don’t think our guys even know anything about the seeds at all. I think guys are so wrapped up in school and what’s going on with the girlfriends and what movie is coming out and what songs to download, that they don’t even know where they are in the standings. We’ll talk about it. The one thing you’ve got to be careful about is no matter what happens, we’re still playing on the first day. So what you don’t want to do is use something as a motivational ploy, and then you lose that game, and now it’s like, what do they have to play for? I’m not big into that. I’m like, hey, it’s a basketball game, you should try to win it.”
Can you identify with Frank Martin and what he’s trying to do in his first year at South Carolina?
“Well, I think it’s more so hard for Frank than it is myself because I’m a first-year coach at this program, but I’m a first-year coach period. Frank Martin has been at Kansas State and done an unbelievably good job there building the program and having a lot of success, being Big 12 coach of the year, too. I’m sure it’s hard for him to go from all the success that he’s had at Kansas State to now struggling there at South Carolina his first year. Coach Martin is a quality coach and knows how to get things done, and I don’t think they’ll be down for very long, probably just for this year.”
Did you give an inspirational speech Saturday or sense you would beat Ole Miss?
“I didn’t have any sense. If anybody can figure out the psychological makeup of your team, an 18-to-21-year-old team, I’d get out of the coaching business and go around and be a consultant. We just talked about the things that we needed to do in order to have success against Ole Miss. The one thing I pointed to was the fact that we did score against Ole Miss at their place, and that’s been our biggest problem. We’ve had some breakdowns defensively, and we’re not great defensively, but if you can’t score the basketball, you can’t win ballgames scoring just 31 points. At least we’ve scored against Ole Miss. I showed them our scoring opportunities and how they were effective. The other thing is not making mistakes on Marshall Henderson. I thought we made some correctable mistakes in the second half (of the first meeting) against Marshall Henderson, and if we could just eliminate some of those mistakes as far as guarding him on the screening action and still score the basketball the way we did at Ole Miss, then we had a chance.”