|9:00 AM PT10:00 AM MT11:00 AM CT12:00 PM ET5:00 PM GMT1:00 PM 北京时间10:00 AM MST12:00 PM EST, Dec 29, 2018
Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Mississippi Attendance: 10,202
No. 19 Mississippi State hoping to shake off rust vs. BYU
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The Mississippi State Bulldogs were not especially sharp in their most recent game. They will get only one chance to fine-tune their instincts before the SEC season begins.
Mississippi State scraped out a 67-63 win over Wright State on Dec. 22, enduring a rough second half. When the Bulldogs face the Brigham Young Cougars this upcoming Saturday at home in Starkville, Miss., they know it will be the last chance to polish their game before the start of SEC play.
The holidays are a busy time for some, but not MSU. Coach Ben Howland's team will play just one game in a 16-day span from Dec. 23 through Jan. 7. The Bulldogs' conference opener is on Jan. 8 against South Carolina.
Mississippi State has enjoyed a successful start to its campaign, losing only once. That loss to Arizona State gained value when the Sun Devils defeated Kansas on Dec. 22.
Mississippi State has defeated Cincinnati and Clemson. Avoiding a bad loss to a BYU side which has already been roughed up this season would undo a lot of the good work the Bulldogs have already accomplished.
If Mississippi State is to beat BYU, the Bulldogs know they will need to guard the perimeter. On Dec. 22, Wright State hit 8 of 15 3-point shots in the second half. The Raiders tied the game with just under six minutes left in regulation and were down by only one point in the final few minutes before the Bulldogs made a series of foul shots to avoid the upset.
BYU has an excellent perimeter shooter in T.J. Haws, who hits 39.5 percent of his 3-point attempts. Nick Emery is a 35.3-percent shooter from long distance. Mississippi State's defensive rotations were poor against Wright State.
"I told the guys we better be ready," Howland said after the narrow escape against Wright State. "We had to make adjustments in the first half against their small lineup, but in the second half they got open on 3-point shots."
Mississippi State forward Aric Holman knows where his team must improve.
"We just had to start communicating more on both sides of the floor," Holman said. "Defensively we were helping with their 3s when they would dribble into the paint and pass the ball out for the open shot."
The Bulldogs didn't have a great shooting day against Wright State, either. They went just 7 of 21 from long distance. Of greater concern is that they attempted only 15 free throws, with roughly half of them coming in the final minutes when Wright State had to foul.
Not being able to earn free throws in the first 35 minutes against an undermanned, undersized opponent from the Horizon League magnified the Bulldogs' struggles on offense.
Yet, as much as the Bulldogs might need to improve on offense, it will be the defense on Yoeli Childs that will be the telling tale.
Childs is averaging 22.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. The forward scored 31 points in three straight games earlier this season, from Dec. 1 through Dec. 8.
When Childs attacks the basket, MSU defenders might think about providing help, but that's how BYU can free up Haws and Emery on kick-outs. Mississippi State will need to be very precise in handling its defensive assignments and rotations.
Mississippi State needs to create turnovers, which doomed BYU against San Diego State on Dec. 22.
BYU head coach Dave Rose noted that the Cougars' turnover-filled performance was not typical. It was merely the latest unique way in which this team managed to lose a game.
"We turned the ball over so many times early," Rose said about his offense's struggles against San Diego State. "That led to wide-open 3s, which got us in a hole. ... Defensively, they did a really good job of covering our other guys. I don't know if we've had another game where we turned it over 18 times."
Updated December 28, 2018