Thursday, February 11, 2010

Turner: It's just another game

It’s just another game.

From the outside looking in, Mississippi State and Ole Miss basketball fans might consider tonight’s matchup of the two touted rivals a must see.

But junior Bulldog Phil Turner sees the nationally televised game just like the previous 23.

“It’s more with the fans. It’s just a basketball game for us,” said the 6-foot-3 wingman. “We don’t have anything against Ole Miss more than we do Alabama or Arkansas. They’re just another opponent we have to beat.”

The 16-7 Dogs did exactly that on Jan. 9 in Oxford when State edged out an 80-75 victory over the Rebels. The game marked State’s first SEC victory and provided MSU with a 13-3 record. They followed it up by creeping past Arkansas 82-80 and used a late game rally to down Georgia 72-69. Turner, who scored a season-high 15 points, was key down the stretch in the battle of the Bulldogs.

Late last month, however, the Bulldogs hit a bump in the road when they were defeated by five points at the hands of Alabama and Arkansas. MSU went 7 of 44 from downtown during the two losses.

Although State has had its struggles from 3-point land, Dogs head coach Rick Stansbury is sticking with the gameplan, Turner said.

“(Stansbury) said keep shooting it,” said Turner, who has knocked down a 3-pointer in all but two games this season. “We’re a good shooting team, period. We’re only losing by one or two points a game. As long as we defend and rebound, our shots are going to come back.”

One explanation for MSU’s struggles that has been floating around is the team’s lack of depth. Top recruit Renardo Sidney has not played all season due to a NCAA investigation, freshman guard Shaun Smith has yet to play as a result of a hip injury and 6-foot-8 forward Elgin Bailey has battled with ankle problems.

Despite the chatter about State’s short lineup, Turner said a solution is in place.

“I feel like what we’re doing is giving Jarvis (Varnado) a break with Kodi (Augustus) sliding down to the (center position),” said Turner. “Coach (Richard) Akins is a great strength and conditioning coach. And he conditions way harder than the games are. We’re fine as far as the depth.”

Following two February losses, including a 69-62 loss to Florida last Saturday, MSU stands third place in the SEC West with a 4-4 record. State, who began the season as one of the favorites to win the division, is not satisfied, Turner said.

“We feel like we should’ve been undefeated,” said the Grenada native. “We lost some close games that we should’ve won. If we were coming into (tonight’s) game with one loss, we still wouldn’t be satisfied.”

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