"I was happy to see our kids bounce back after a tough night last Saturday night. I didn't think it was pretty at times, but I thought the key to the game was our effort level. I thought that we created a lot of energy on the defensive end that led to some offensive baskets. I thought that Iggy (Ignerski) stepped up and played the way we need him to play at both ends. I thought that he rebounded the ball well. I thought that offensively he did some things that we wanted him to. We didn't particularly shoot the ball well tonight. Their team played zone. We didn't get a lot done on the blocks as you can see by the stats. We have to get better there because the teams coming in are going to get better. But overall, I saw some improvement. It was good to see (Winsome) Frazier come in, loosen up and make some shots. I thought that Derrick Zimmerman looked to pass first tonight and create a lot of plays for other players."
Q&A with Rick Stansbury:
What was the difference in Ignerski in the second half?
"I wish I could answer that for sure because we would give it to him everytime. He has to step up for this team. The way this team is right now, we have to have some other people step up and take over some roles. That means rebounding the ball and scoring more for us. The way our lineup is right now our first, second and third rebounders are not here from last year's team. Our leading returning rebounders are our two guards. So Iggy has to step up and rebound that basketball. I really thought that he went after the boards hard tonight. Even though he only had eight, I thought he had more than eight. Offensively, he didn't shoot the three well but I thought that he showed some versatility coming off the dribble a little tonight."
Was the zone causing you some problems in the first half?
"Yeah. I think that anytime you don't score well on the block the zone is going to cause you some problems. But I thought that we found ways, as the game went on, to gap dribble it and get inside of it and didn't settle for a three most of the time. Early in the game we settled for too many threes. In the second half I thought that Timmy Bowers and Derrick Zimmerman were able to penetrate the zone a lot of times."
Did you think there was a time in the ballgame where your team seemed to snap out of a malaise?
"I can't put a finger on that for sure, but I think the urgency picked up from all of us at one point. Why, I'm not sure. This team hasn't developed that yet. Every possession, defensively, you have to have that mentality and we don't have it."
Talk a little about Winsome Frazier's play? (14 points in 18 minutes.-Gene)
"I thought that Winsome did what I think he can do and that is shoot the basketball. I think the more he plays the more he will get comfortable doing that. I thought that he rushed a couple of shots late in the game but I think when he starts to get some playing time, he will only get better."
Do you know any more about when the Mario Austin situation will be resolved one way or the other?
"I don't really have the answer to it. It is still in the process. There are some questions that have to be decided such as which committee and when. Some progress has been made. I would say that I doubt that those guys will work very hard Thursday and Friday. You can quote me too. I'll be coach (Ron) Polk."
You got 10 minutes from Stephen Cowherd. Is he giving you what you want from him right now?
"Not yet, he's not. I've got to get him some playing so that he can. With some playing time, he will be able to do that. He missed the scrimmages and one exhibition because of a hurt ankle. We need some games like tonight so that he can get some playing time and learn. Once he learns, Stephen Cowherd will be able to give us what we need in that backup role."
Would you like to see Derrick (Zimmerman) shoot a little more than he did tonight?
"Derrick Zimmerman is 5 of 5 tonight, 8 assists and 12 points. I'll take that from him any night. I like that better than the other night when he was 5 of 18. That is too many shots. I think he has to be the point guard and look for everybody else first. If he has shots he has the freedom to shoot. We need him to create some easy plays for some post guys."
13 turnovers and 15 steals. Is that the type ratio that you would like to see?
"Steals for sure. Turnovers is not bad. You would like to see your assists a little better than 12, but you will take 13 turnovers and 15 steals any night. The (number of) steals tells you that we were very active defensively."
McNeese State coach Tic Price:
"First I want to say that Mississippi State has a good basketball team. Certainly, if they could get Mario Austin back they are really going to be a very, very good basketball team. Even in the absence of Mario Austin they have the ability to do some damage in the SEC. They are very good defensively."
When was the last time you were ejected from a game?
"I have never been ejected before. That is something that I feel real bad about. I think that my adrenalin was flowing. This was a big game for us and our program, obviously. I am more disappointed in myself than I am with my players. Being the leader I have to always maintain my poise, but I was in a fight and got caught up in the moment. I deserved what I got tonight."
What was the difference in tonight's game compared to the game you two played in the NCAA Tournament?
"It's kind of hard to tell because I wasn't around in the second half to know. (Laugh from the media). I don't think there was that much difference. The difference is that Superman wasn't on the floor tonight, Mario Austin. It was a case of him getting Kryptonite. When you get a player of that caliber - one of the best low post players in America - back on the floor, Mississippi State will be a team to be reckoned with."
Do you know much about the Mario Austin situation?
"I have no idea. The only thing I can say about that situation personally is if someone made a mistake, they should be held accountable for it and not the kid."
Talk about the team's play tonight.
"Our intensity level was much better going to the basket. I think Michal Ignerski had his best game rebounding the ball since he has been here. He was all over the glass tonight. They have him credited with 8 rebounds but I thought he had a lot more than that. He really stepped up tonight. We had some other guys come off the bench and step up for us. Winsome Frazier had a big game for us tonight. Stephen Cowherd and Branden Vincent had good games off the bench. That's what we have to have while one of our players is down."
Talk about your play in the second half.
"In the second half I thought that I had to drive to the basket and be more aggressive. Everybody has to step up. I had to step up and get more rebounds."
Is that the kind of rebounding that they are expecting from you every night?
"That is what I expect from myself."
What caused you to be more aggressive in the second half?
"I think I have to be more aggressive and drive to the basket first, then try to make some shots from long distance. I think when I drive and get some easy baskets that will get me going and then maybe I will make some shots from long distance."
What is your objectives when you go in?
"I want to increase the lead or keep it the same. I also want to hit the open shot but I haven't been open yet. (Laugh). Coach wants me to be more aggressive, but that will come when I get more comfortable with the guys."
What do you mean by being more aggressive? Shoot more?
"Yeah, look to score a little more. I can shoot pretty good but I'm just trying to get comfortable with the guys and learn where everybody is going to be be."
What is the difference in the college game compared to high school?
"Mentally is the biggest thing, by far. Just being prepared to play every single day. Playing against Z in practice everyday..if you aren't mentally ready to play against him, he is going to kill you. He brings it everyday, 100%. That is what I'm trying to take from him."
Did you feel more comfortable tonight?
"I feel more comfortable every night. I have to come in and give the team some energy and shooting."
How much does this help the team after losing that game against Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday night?
"We tried to put that loss behind us. We didn't want to do the same thing again so we came out and played more aggressive tonight."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org