STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State's inconsistency in Southeastern Conference play this season can be traced back to one major flaw — poor defense.
So as the Bulldogs (19-6, 6-4 SEC) prepare for a two-game road trip that begins tomorrow against LSU (14-10, 4-6), coach Rick Stansbury is trying to make some adjustments following a stunning 70-68 home loss to Georgia on Saturday.
"Sometimes (the defense) has been good, but the consistency is not where we want it to be," Stansbury said. "You've got to rebound and defend on the road."
Ten games into the league schedule, the numbers are ugly. The Bulldogs are giving up 71.8 points per game, which ranks 11th out of 12 teams. Opponents are shooting 46.3 percent from the floor (10th place), including a whopping 41.6 percent (12th) from 3-point range. Mississippi State has also forced just 79 turnovers, which is easily the worst mark in the league.
The problems are surprising considering there's no obvious reason the Bulldogs should be struggling. They have three athletic perimeter defenders in Dee Bost, Brian Bryant and Rodney Hood and also one of the league's biggest frontcourts with Arnett Moultrie (6-foot-11), Renardo Sidney (6-10) and Wendell Lewis (6-9) patrolling the paint.
But a lack of depth has taken a toll.
Stansbury has routinely played with a seven or eight-man rotation, leading to a heavy load for Bost, Moultrie and Hood, who rank first, second and third, respectively, in the SEC in minutes played per game. Not only is fatigue a factor, but there's also some hesitation to contest shots because there aren't many options on the bench if someone gets into foul trouble.
Stansbury agrees his team has to pick its spots, but that doesn't explain the consistent issues.
"There's been times that our lack of depth has caused problems late in games fatigue-wise," Stansbury said. "But you've got to find a way to push through it down the stretch."
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