A year ago the Mississippi State Bulldogs were a veteran 21-win team with one of the brightest stars in the Southeastern Conference. Although, the season ended in the disappointment of losing seven of their last nine games and the retirement of long-time head coach Rick Stansbury, the Bulldogs were looking to the 2012-13 season as a fresh start. Even first-time head coach Rick Ray did not expect to have to reinvent the wheel.
Tonight, Mississippi State goes into the game versus New Orleans with 4-7 record starting three freshmen and two sophomores, and running the risk of losing to another team they have dominated for decades. (MSU lost to Alabama A&M at home in its last game.) The Bulldogs returned only two players with significant playing time from last year's squad. Jalen Steele is finally back from an injury that saw him sidelined for eight games, just in time for Wendall Lewis to go down with a fractured right patella.
In addition to those devastating injuries, Jacoby Davis and DeAndre Applewhite are out for the entire season after tearing ACLs. This leaves Coach Ray to look to a trio of freshmen to try to turn the season around heading into SEC play. Guards Craig Sword and Fred Thomas and forward Gavin Ware have lead the Bulldogs in scoring, but will welcome Steele back to help carry the load.
The defense did cause 13 turnovers in the loss to Alabama A&M and hopes to find a combination that will turn up the defense even more. Ray and company have yet to find the lineup that can get this team going in the right direction having used five lineups in just 11 games. The team is at risk of losing eight non-conference games with a loss to New Orleans tonight on CSS.
New Orleans also comes into the game with troubles of its own having lost three straight and six out of its last seven games. The Privateers most recent defeat came at the hands of Boise State in Las Vegas, 67-51. Defensively, New Orleans held Boise to 25-of-61 shooting and 8-of-22 from three-point range. The Broncos out-rebounded New Orleans 46-33. The Privateers were lead by Loveell Cook with 15 points, Cory Dixon and
Rarlensee Nelson had 13 and 11, respectively.
Tune in to CSS tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET to see which of these teams can change their frustrating luck of the young season. Matt Stewart and Daymeon Fishback bring you the call followed by Lamar and Stephen F. Austin in a CSS basketball doubleheader.