GPTV: Rick Ray, Craig Sword, Travis Daniels

GPTV: Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray and his players, Craig Sword and Travis Daniels, talk about their team's 65-61 home loss to the No. 18th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks.

What happened during the last few minutes of the game?
Craig Sword "We just have to close out game, stop turning the ball over and get rebounds when it counts."

There was a period where you guys didn't score for 6-plus minutes. Can you describe what was going on during that time?
Craig Sword "We couldn't get a good look at the rim because they were contesting everything."

How did it affect the team not having I.J. Ready today?
Craig Sword "To be honest, we didn't know if he was going to play in the game. I thought he may come in at some point but he ended up not coming in."

How do you feel it impacted your team?
Craig Sword "It feel different not having him out there. But we practiced without him. And they started off the year without me and I.J. We just tried to find a way to win."

You guys only scored 9 points in the first half against Arkansas in the first game. You had more offensive success against them this time. What was the difference?
Craig Sword "We were at home. We were in our hometown and did what we had to do to try and get a win today."

Travis, what is preventing you guys from hitting the opponent in the mouth at the end of a game?
Travis Daniels "During close games team are going to come after us and give us their all and come at us from different angles. We just have to stay the course. And we have to be attentive during timeouts. We have miscommunication sometimes."

You guys held Bobby Portis to one point in the first half and then he scored 12 in the second half. What do you think was the difference?
Craig Sword "I didn't even know he was out in the first half. In the second half, he did what he normally does. We couldn't stop him at times."

You went against their press for the entire game. That has to not only be physically draining but mentally draining as well. How tough was it to go against it?
Craig Sword "I was tired but something in me told me to keep going. I couldn't come off the floor unless I had fouls."

Craig, your team hasn't beaten a ranked opponent since you have been here. Did you think today was going to be that day?
Craig Sword "Yeah, I did. But it just didn't turn out right for us so we have to look forward to the next game."

The turnovers always seem to be the issue with this team. What needs to happen for your team to get better at the turnovers?
Craig Sword "We just have to be strong with the ball most of the time. We are just too loose with it, kick it off our foot. We just have to find a way to be strong with the ball."

Opening Statement by Rick Ray
"We played a very good, very well-coached Arkansas team after a disappointing loss to Ole Miss. I thought our guys were up to the challenge and did a lot of good things when you consider that our starting point guard, I.J. Ready, was out. He is our best ball handler and best decision maker with the ball. When you play Arkansas, a team that makes you make quick decisions in a short amount of time, I think our guys did a pretty good job.

"I am frustrated with the fact that we lost the game. I think we are doing some really good things on the court but we have to find a way to win a ballgame like this. I think it boiled down to two things, our inability to take care of the basketball is really killing us. We don't give ourselves a chance to win ballgames like this when we have 23 turnovers, some of them at crucial times. But more importantly by veteran guys on your team. And the second thing is that we had so many opportunities to get defensive rebounds or get loose balls. I think there was one period there when we had four straight possessions where the ball went out of bounds and they eventually scored.

"In order for us to take that next step as a basketball team, we have to find a way to give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame by taking care of the basketball and securing some defensive rebounds."

There was a six-minute offensive gap by your team. Was that due to the mental and physical fatigue of facing their press the entire game?
"I don't think so. I think if you look back at all of our games we have a stretch like that where we don't score. I think in college basketball there are stretches where teams don't score. But I don't know if it was due to fatigue. Arkansas, based on how they play, make you expend an incredible amount of energy against the press. But I don't think it was that. We just have those spurts in every game."

Portis was sick and didn't practice the past couple of games. He obviously struggled in the first half, then came back in the second half. What did you think about his game?
"I don't really know. Did he score a lot of points in the second half? He must have come back and played well. I didn't know he was sick.

"We wanted to make sure we attacked Bobby Portis in the low post and get him in some foul trouble. But I didn't have any idea that he has 12 points in the second half and no points in the first half."

I.J. Ready went through warmups. How close was the decision to play him?
"It wasn't close. He wasn't able to do anything yesterday. We didn't practice him. We tried to get him to do some cutting things but he couldn't put any pressure on the foot at all. And to my knowledge he went out to warmups and couldn't move at all. So, I don't think it was even close for him to play today."

What impact did he not playing have on your team? And what is the long-term prognosis for him?
"I don't know the long-term prognosis but he is obviously a crucible part of our team. He is our leading assist guy, our second leading scorer in SEC play."

Defensively, what have you been able to do against them? They scored 61 and 65 points against your team in the two games and they normally score about 80 points per game.
"I think we are a good defensive team. And you can factor in that we gave them 23 points (off of turnovers). If we can not do that, then we are an elite defensive team."

I believe your the first year here Arkansas was 1-8 in SEC road games. This year they are 5-2. What do you think the difference is in them?
"They are obviously better but they also have veteran guys like Qualls and Porter who Mike Anderson wants. Those guys are the leading duo in scoring in the SEC play. What you need in SEC road games are guys that you can go to in crunch time. And they have two of them ."

Is this part of the process of learning how to win, learning how to close out the close games (with a win) instead of close losses?
"I think so. I think this is our sixth or seventh SEC game that we have lost by 6 or less points. We have to find a way to flip that around. You obviously want that to happen this season. But our guys are making progress. We are a better team. But we have to find a way to flip that stat around."

You have Kentucky coming up which will be a tough game but down the stretch you have some games on paper that appear to be very winnable. How do you keep your players up mentally when you know you have some games like that down the stretch?
"I don't look at anything like that and say that is a win, that is a win, that is a loss. And I think it is an insult to teams like Missouri and Vanderbilt and say that is a winnable game. I don't look at it like that. I go and attack every single game and figure how we can set ourselves up so we can win a that game."

You talked about the steps that you have taken (to build your program). You have gone from losing games by 30 and 40 points. Now you are playing top-25 teams and only losing by 4 points. How do you show your guys that you are improving after a loss?
"I think it is a fine line, a catch-22. You want to let your guys know that you are proud of them for going in and competing after a difficult loss to Ole Miss and do it without your starting point guard. But I am still really pissed that we lost. At the end of the day, if we take care of the basketball and get a couple of defensive rebounds, then we have a chance to win the games. It's like kids, you have to pat them on the back some and you also have to tell them you are disappointed. Then you have to find a way to teach them to do that."

How do you feel that Trivante Bloodman played today with I.J. Ready out?
"I was never worried about Trivante's conditioning. He's a guy who I think might have a third lung because he is always in shape. He never gets out of shape. So, I wasn't concerned about that. I was concerned with how Arkansas would play him. He's not a good shooter, so would they sag off of him. That zone gave us a problem and he was at the top of it. So, they didn't have to guard him. But Trivante did a great job of not taking uncontested threes that he normally doesn't have a chance to make most of the time. I thought he did a great job of moving the ball around. He played a really smart game, so you have to give him a ton of credit."

What did you think about Fallou Ndoye and Oliver Black playing on the court with Gavin Ware?
"I thought a crucial thing that happened was when Gavin Ware was shooting a free throw and he had an over the back to get his fourth foul. He simply can't get that foul. We have Fallou and Oliver out there. We want to have them out there with either Gavin or Roquez Johnson. You don't want to have two freshmen out there at the same time. But those guys have to do a better job of getting defensive rebounds. I think one played 13 minutes and the other 14 minutes and they only had a total of 1 defensive rebound each. They have to do a better job of defensive rebounds when those guys are out."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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