Mississippi State has seen the seesaw sway back and forth with its non-conference schedule this season.
The Bulldogs started play 5-0, but lost six of seven games after the best start under third-year head coach Rick Ray. The Bulldogs were coming off a 19-point loss to McNeese State at home on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs sure didn’t act like it.
Ray’s squad overcame a hot shooting three-point team in Florida State to down the Seminoles 62-55 inside Humphrey Coliseum on Friday night.
“I put up on the board here before our guys came out for this game, perception vs. reality,” Ray said. “I said ‘the perception of what we are at this point in time is that we’re a bad basketball team.’ I said, ‘most people in a high major conference, your power five conferences, they go into conference 12-3, 10-2, 11-3.’ The fact that we were 6-6, the perception is we’re a bad basketball team. The reality is, we’re a good basketball team. We’ve just got to go out, demonstrate that and display that every single time.”
The six losses came to TCU, Tulane, Oregon State, Arkansas State, USC Upstate and the previously mentioned McNeese State. The only win during that span was against Jacksonville at home two days before Christmas.
The Bulldogs (7-6) had several meetings after the loss to the Cowboys to talk things over to get the season heading in the right direction.
“We had meetings, not only with us, but with Coach Ray and the whole coaching staff,” MSU sophomore guard I.J. Ready said. “We’ve really been stressing energy and trying to play hard every game.”
Ready led the Bulldogs with 14 points to tie his career-high. He scored 12 of his points in the second half, including six-straight to start the half to give MSU a 28-27 lead.
MSU junior center Gavin Ware missed the last two games with a sprained ankle but gave the Bulldogs 10 points in 25 minutes off the bench.
“Quite simply, we don’t win that game without Gavin Ware,” Ray said of the former Starkville High School standout. “Fallou (Ndoye) gets in foul trouble, so now we’ve got to play small between Roquez (Johnson) and Oliver Black. Having Gavin Ware in that game, him sucking it up and playing because he’s not 100 percent on that bad wheel and had to play extended minutes because of the foul trouble with Fallou and able to go through that, I thought it was huge for our team.”
Daniels added 12 points for the Bulldogs to give MSU with three players in double digits.
The Bulldogs start Southeastern Conference play Wednesday when Tennessee comes to the Hump. Tip is set for 8 p.m.