Bulldogs slip into 3-point shooting slump

Published 12:00 pm Friday, January 25, 2019

For 16 games, Mississippi State’s 3-point shooting was a strength of the offense. Suddenly, it has become a bit of a concern.

The Bulldogs are only 8-for-39 from 3-point range in their last two games, and only made three treys in a 76-55 loss at Kentucky on Tuesday. They’ve hit at least seven 3-pointers in 13 of their 18 games this season, but failed to reach that number in three of the last five.

The 3-point slump hasn’t completely derailed the Bulldogs — they’re still 14-4, ranked No. 22 in the country and won two of their last three games — but hasn’t gone unnoticed.

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“Sometimes you have those nights you’re struggling from 3-point range,” freshman guard Robert Woodard said after the loss to Kentucky. “We were struggling all over tonight. We just have to get back in the gym and make things work.”

Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said Kentucky’s defense and pace, as well as falling behind early, contributed to some of the struggles on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs shot poorly from all over the place, not just outside the arc. They were 19-for-61 (31.1 percent) overall and 3-for-20 from 3-point range.

“We’ve actually struggled the last two games. We were 5-of-19 (against Vanderbilt) as well so I thought a few of them were just rushed, and we were down big,” Howland said after the loss to Kentucky. “But in general, we were rushed offensively. I think they did a good job speeding us up and getting us hurried when we were playing real fast and not really controlled enough offensively.”

It continued a slump that started two weeks ago against Ole Miss, when Mississippi State went 6-for-21 from distance in an 81-77 loss. The Bulldogs rebounded to make 10 3-pointers in a win over Florida, then were 5-for-19 in their next game, a 71-55 win over Vanderbilt.

Mississippi State is shooting 37.2 percent from 3-point range for the season, which ranks second in the Southeastern Conference. Against Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky it shot a combined 23.3 percent.

The good news for the Bulldogs (14-4, 2-3 SEC) is that they’ll face a loose defense Saturday when they take on No. 16 Auburn (13-5, 2-3).

The Tigers rank 12th in the 14-team SEC and 234th out of 351 Division I teams nationally in 3-point defense. Auburn’s opponents are making 35 percent of their 3-point tries. Kentucky and South Carolina made 12 of their 33 attempts (36.4 percent) in beating the Tigers the last two games.

Both the Bulldogs and Tigers are in need of a win Saturday in Starkville to break out of their respective slumps.

“We just have to get back to practice and work harder because we’ve got games, another tough opponent Saturday,” Mississippi State guard Tyson Carter said after the Kentucky game. “We don’t have time to lick our wounds. We’ve got to keep it moving and think about the next game.”

• Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
• TV: SEC Network
• Radio: 105.5 FM

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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