A Q&A With Rick Stansbury

Mississippi head men's basketball coach Rick Stansbury talks to the media after his team's 82-54 victory over Oklahoma City in an exhibition game played at the Hump Saturday afternoon.

Opening Comments
"It was what you thought you would have from a first scrimmage. We saw some things that we hadn't worked on a whole lot. We hadn't worked a whole lot against zones at this point. We probably saw 30 minutes of zone. They are a small team that spreads you out. And they probably did a little different screening action and back cutting than you work against every day (in practice), which is good for us.

"We did some things for a reason. We could have attacked the zone a little bit better in the first half but we stayed in some things just for us to work on something. We weren't very good at it.

"The second half we did some things against the zone that we are more familiar with. And we basically got the ball where we wanted to against the zone. We got good open shots against the zone in the second half. We attacked it and got shots.

"I think in the second half it all started with our defensive effort. The first half we gave up 33 points. In the second half they had 11 points in the first 13 minutes. And we only gave up 21 for the entire second half. At halftime, we are getting outrebounded by four, 22 to 18. The second half we outrebounded them by 19. We had 1 offensive rebound in the first half. We had 12 for the game. Those are huge stats because they are effort categories.

"We were short some people in the game. Phil Turner didn't play. I'll get that out of the way. He was serving a one-game suspension due to an academic situation about two months ago. This was his game to sit out, so that is behind him now. Some of the other guys are out due to injuries. We'll see if we'll have Riley (Benock) back next weekend or not."

What are your thoughts about the play of Ravern Johnson today? He scored 23 points and was 6-of-10 from the three-point line.
"Making baskets is a huge part of the game. There is no doubt about that. And I think Rav will tell you that we have to help him become a better player. When people talk about you they need to talk about you doing something besides making shots. You have to find other ways to influence the game and change the game besides making three-point shots. And that is where all my focus is with him. What else do you do when you shot is not falling to influence the game? Barry Stewart influences the game whether he is making shots or not. Barry does a lot of things. He is a great defender, creates for other people, sees things, executes That is the biggest challenge I have for Rav and Kodi Augustus. When you aren't making three-point shots how do you influence the game?"

Talk about Barry Stewart as a leader.
"I'm on him everyday about being a leader and stepping up and being vocal. Barry Stewart does all the other things but we need his leadership this year. Being one of only two seniors, that is important for us."

Wendell Lewis did some positive things. He had 8 rebounds in the game during his 13 minutes of play.
"Wendell has been the biggest surprise of anybody to this point. I didn't think he played as well as he has been playing practice. But it was his first game in front of a few people. He still got 8 rebounds in 13 minutes. The other day he had 10 rebounds in the first 20 minutes of our scrimmage, 6 of them offensively against Jarvis. He has been very impressive for us so far and he's getting better and better."

Shaun Smith had 4 assists in his 14 minutes of play.
"Shaun has a lot of ability to do a lot of things. He can put it on the floor and drive it, which we aren't great at in the perimeter in some spots. Plus, he has a little body strength. He has a great feel for the game of basketball. The concern for us with him is where his hip (injury) is. He is having a little bit of a problem with his hip. And we didn't know if he would be able to play today. If that had been the case, then we were down to seven players. I need to get Riley (Benock) well and get Phil Turner back. Then, we'll see where the decision is on (Renardo) Sid(ney) soon."

This team seems to play more confident basketball compared to this time last year. Is that apparent from a coaching standpoint?
"It is not even close to where we are at this time of year compared to this time last year. And it shouldn't be because I have an experienced team this year. And last year I only had two players back. I had a whole new system. I was trying to figure out who could do what. This year we know who can do what, so we can go right into our system. We still have to do some things better in the system, defending and rebounding some. But we are light years ahead of where we were last year.

"And (today) we played without a guy who has really been impressive for us - Phil Turner. He has really played well for us. He has really matured and grown up. Another guy off that bench is Riley Benock, a guy who is just smart and fits into what we are doing perfectly. Guys who come off the bench are important. Phil Turner brings you energy, makes shots, makes plays. Riley brings you three things that we need - basketball IQ and a guy who can really pass it with that IQ and he is a guy who can make shots."

What are your thoughts about Georgetown?
"Next weekend will be a challenge for us. Georgetown went into Louisville and should have beaten them. They led them the first half, had them down nine, then by seven. Then Louisville hit a 40-foot three-pointer at the buzzer that cut it down to four. In the second half, Georgetown basically leads them for the next 15 minutes. Five minutes to go in the game it is a tied game. Then the referees take over the last five minutes and Louisville goes on a 20 to 9 or 20-8 run to beat them 10 or 11 points. So, that game will be much more of a challenge for us, which is good because we need that."

Were John Riek and Renardo Sidney not eligible to play today?
"That is two different situations. Sid is not eligible to play. John was eligible to play today but we saved John just to make sure about this game. We are going to do a little more research about whether this game would count or not count, if you know what I mean. You read some articles last night I'm sure. Somehow someone else's exhibition game counted. You know what I'm talking about. Why does another person's exhibition games count against his suspension when Riek's does not count against his suspension? If his doesn't count, then why does someone else's not count? That's what we decided to hold him out."

Do you feel any better about the Renardo Sidney situation?
"You know how I felt from day one, so I couldn't feel much better than that. I think a decision is definitely coming down soon. And I have no reason to feel any differently than I felt from day one.

"I'm not even supposed to be talking about him. Hopefully, we can get it all behind us soon and know where we stand. You know it's hard on him. You think about us but think about him. Think about what he is going through. Is he playing or is he not playing? Think about the mental pressure that he is going through everyday. It's not just here. It's a national thing. You can read about it in anything. But we'll get it behind us soon. We'll pray for the best."

Do you think a decision will be made within a week?
"I hope we will have a decision by this time next weekend for sure. For the next exhibiton game. There is no reason why we shouldn't."

Will he be physically ready to play if he is ruled eligible?
"I will play him but will he be physically ready? No. But he will play. It will be a work in progress with him for a while. But that will be a good problem to have."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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