Bulldogs Need More ‘D’ from Johnson

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Considering he torched Georgia for 21 points in the first half earlier this season, Ravern Johnson was a popular topic during this afternoon’s Mississippi State media session. But when asked about Johnson’s shooting, fellow guard Barry Stewart said, “It’s critical, but I think this team’s got to take more pride on defense. Shots fall, and sometimes they don’t. I think Ravern has confidence, and we’re going to let him shoot, but we’ve got to take pride on defense tomorrow.”

Coach Rick Stansbury said he really liked that answer.

And it’s a fair point Stewart makes. The first time these teams met, State jumped out to a 30-11 lead but had to fend off Georgia in the second half for a 67-61 win. Over its last eight games, MSU has yielded 81.6 points per game. So of greater concern to Stansbury is not Johnson’s shooting, but his improvement as a defender.

“It’s very obvious Ray’s strength hasn’t been his ability to shut people down and rebound the basketball,” Stansbury said. “Those are areas he’s got to continue to get better at. He has gotten better at it, but there’ve been games you’ve seen where you’ve got to have those stops that maybe he wasn’t as good as he could be.”

Johnson said he’s getting a better graps of things. “I’m starting to understand more things, to keep on guarding and pay more attention to scouting reports. That’s really helped me out when we play games,” he said.

Other highlights from Stansbury in today’s media session:

• On playing the tourney in Tampa: “I think Atlanta has really been good for all 12 teams, and I don’t know if there’s another spot that’s centrally located that’s better for all 12 teams or all 12 fan bases.”

• On last year’s Alabama game, when the tornado struck: “The way it turned out, I think we were all blessed. When you look at the timing of that tornado, the game going into overtime. … It could’ve been a bad situation for a lot of people.”

• On having to win four times in four days: “You’re going to hear the generic answer to that question: We’re going to play one game at a time. We’re not going to save anybody for the next one. … We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win that first game.”

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