The Mississippi St. Bulldogs just put the finishing touches on a decisive victory over the Gamecocks in the Colonial Life Arena. Jarvis Varnado led a balanced MSU attack--all starters scored in double figures--with 19 points, while Sam Muldrow led the 'Cocks with 15.
It's time to face the fact that we're not a very good basketball team this year without Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes. In fact, we're a bad team with one star, and that star is now exhausted and unable to carry us any longer. We were briefly able to transcend our limitations in a victory over the Kentucky Wildcats, and have a few other good performances under our belts, as well. However, for the most part we've been a pretty awful team; we have little post presence, our shooters are average at best, we don't have any reliable depth, and our morale is low after a series of dejecting losses. This game really brought all of that home. MSU is a decent team and played good ball tonight, but they're hardly the kind of team that blows out good basketball teams on the road. We're just not very good, though.
On a related note, it's time for Horn to start preparing for the future. I think we need to abandon the plan to let Devan Downey do everything. That may be--or at least was at one point in the season when he was playing better than he is now--our best option to win, but it's not doing much as far as developing our freshmen goes. Lakeem Jackson and Ramon Galloway are a big part of the future of this team, and we need to begin focusing on getting them ready to play bigger roles in 2010-11. Hopefully, we can manage to make the NIT or CBI in order to get them the opportunity to get more experience.
A few more particular thoughts on the game itself:
- State simply killed us with the three. The Bulldogs did a good job of getting open looks, although I thought they got away with some pushoffs here and there. When you play this team, you have to do whatever it takes to keep them from getting those looks. We knew that going in and failed to do it. That's probably the single biggest reason we lost this game. It's extremely rare for a team to win a game in which its opponent shoots almost 48% from downtown.
- On a related note, our press has become almost completely ineffective. We didn't produce many turnovers and State often was able to create easy shots by breaking the press. This is at least partially due to fatigue; we're basically only going seven deep right now, as Horn has stopped giving Evaldas Baniulis and Austin Steed meaningful minutes. I'm fine with that in regards to Evka, who was almost completely useless this year. I'm a little surprised, though, that we're not playing Steed more. Steed isn't a particularly good player, but he does bring good defense and gets hustle points for us. I'm not exactly convinced that Johndre Jefferson is any better.
- Lakeem Jackson played quite well tonight and has been doing so in general lately. I'm very impressed with his progression; he seems to be becoming more comfortable with the ball in his hands and is more aggressive driving to the hoop. If he can develop his shooting over the offseason, he could very easily become a guy that scores 12-14 a night next season. He's also impressed me with his tenacity fighting for turnovers and loose balls, which is the more impressive considering that some of his teammates seem to be giving up.
That's a wrap on this one. Next up is hosting the Alabama Crimson Tide. More on the Tide soon.