Mississippi State’s coach Ben Howland joined the rest of the league’s head coaches on the SEC Teleconference on Thursday to discuss the Bulldogs’ upcoming game against Oklahoma.
Here is a transcript of Howland’s time on the call:
Howland: “We’re coming off a huge win last night against a very good Arkansas team. That was huge for us. Now it’s a quick turnaround with a Wednesday game and now play on the road against a very talented and tough Oklahoma team. I just finished watching their last game against Baylor where they had a chance to win it in the last 10 seconds of the game against the No. 1 team in the country.
“They played very well and beat TCU handedly the previous game. They’re well coached and a very difficult team to match-up with. Their bigs are so skilled. (Brady) Manek is a great 3-point shooter and one of the best 3-point shooting bigs in the country. (Kristian) Doolittle is really another match-up nightmare kind of like we saw last night from Arkansas in that he starts at the five but he was playing the three spot his first two years. He’s super skilled.
“They’ve got very good pieces. (Austin) Reaves is a great shooter. They’re a good team so this will be a big challenge for us.”
When did new age analytics factor into scouting and putting together a game plan for opponents?
Howland: “Analytics have been a big part sports for a long time. I think it just keeps getting more in-depth with all the different things that you can measure. There’s no question when you’re looking at their ability to shoot and stretch the floor, that’s a huge part of it.
“But you’re always studying analytics. For example when we played against Arkansas, they were top six in the country in turnovers forced per game. That obviously tells you you’d better do a good job taking care of the ball to give yourself a chance. That was a real priority for us and we ended up with only nine turnovers against a very good defensive team.
“You’re always looking at different aspects of how people play and what they do to try to be prepared for them.”
What would you consider to be a good analytical shot or does it depend on the personnel that you have?
Howland: “The personnel that you have, no question. Some years you’re more built to be a good 3-point shooting team based on your personnel. For example this year, we’re third-biggest team in the country in terms of size and length. So that gives us an advantage to be more of an inside-oriented team first.”
Eric Musselman said that Reggie Perry defended Isaiah Joe well. Why did you put Perry on Joe?
Howland: “Reggie was on (Desi) Sills more than he was on Joe. He ended up being in switching situations to be on Joe a few times. Reggie did a great job last night all the way around. They’re a very difficult team to match-up with as you know having watched them play last weekend.
“I think the guy that’s really the nightmare is Jimmy Whitt Jr. How do you match-up with him? At 6-3, a lot of times you see a four-man having to match-up with him. He was a real problem for us all last night. Mason (Jones) and Isaiah Joe are really talented, those guys. We were fortunate to sneak out of there with a win last night.”
How well is Reggie Perry playing for you?
Howland: “He’s playing at a really high level. You look at him, I think he just had his 10th or 11th double-double. He’s averaging a double-double on the season. He’s really passing the ball well. The other night against Georgia, he had six assists and no turnovers. Last night, he had three assists and two blocks.
“He’s doing a lot. He did a great job at the foul line. He was 14 out of 15. He’s really playing good basketball.”
Who deserves the primary credit for shutting down Isaiah Joe?
Howland: “I think our team defense did a great job. I also think he may have just had an off night. He had a shot in the first half right in front of our bench that was wide open and he almost never misses that shot. He had a couple of shots that were good looks for him and they just didn’t go in for him. Thank God it was a night that it happened when they were playing the Bulldogs.
“Both Nick Weatherspoon, D.J. Stewart and Tyson Carter all did good jobs matching up with him. We gave up some other things staying at home on him. If you watch the film, they did get 46 points in the paint. That’s a lot of layups. They ended up shooting in the high 40’s, which the previous three teams that we’d played have been in the 30’s.”
You and Eric Musselman are friends. How you think he’ll handle losing back-to-back games?
Howland: “They really have a great thing going right now. They’re playing so well together and so unselfishly. They play great defense and forcing so many turnovers. He’s a professional coach. He’s been doing it at all levels, even at the pro level. I know that fan base will be ready when TCU comes in. My good friend Jamie Dixon, they’re gong to have their hands full come Saturday. They’re going to have to play really well to have a chance to win down there.”
What do you think of Jamie Dixon and the job he’s done rebuilding TCU?
Howland: “Jamie does a phenomenal job. He’s a great coach. He’s done just a masterful job at TCU, his alma mater. They’re off to a great start at 4-2 with a great win. They just beat Texas Tech. Arkansas is going to have their hands full because they’re well coached with good talent.
“They’ve got a great player in (Desmond) Bane, who is really, really a special talent that can score at all levels. The big kid inside (Kevin Samuel) is going to be a tough match-up for them because of his size.”