Tuesday evening in Oxford, Chris Jans and his Mississippi State Bulldogs dropped a hard-fought 86-82 contest against the Ole Miss Rebels. While it wasn't the only thing that led to the Bulldogs' road struggles (those are persisting and exist independent of this), a big factor in the loss was senior forward Tolu Smith III struggling to find his rhythm early on.
Smith is arguably the most talented member of the Mississippi State men's basketball team and he, unfortunately, found some major offensive difficulties when facing the Ole Miss Rebels. Somehow, some way, Ole Miss found a way to neutralize the Bulldogs' big man.
When he was asked about Smith's offensive struggles, Mississippi State men's basketball head coach Chris Jans credited the way the Rebels rotated various defenders and managed to keep Smith off balance.
"Yeah, they were rotating different guys on him and changing up their coverage in terms of their double teams – when they went and who they went off of," Jans explained.
Mississippi State basketball: Bulldogs likely need Tolu Smith to avoid slow starts
Now, Jans did mention that Smith wasn't totally ineffective when facing the Rebels. Smith just wasn't as good as he typically is.
"He did some nice things against [them]," Jans said. [Smith] created some shots and created some closeouts, but there were times where he wasn’t as patient as we would like him to be in terms of the decisions he made."
Despite the fact that Smith was responsible for drawing extra attention and keeping Ole Miss locked on him, he wasn't exactly as great as Mississippi State probably wanted. He ran into some turnover issues against the aggressive Ole Miss defense and just couldn't get going scoring wise.
"He ended up having four turnovers," Jans said. "The changing coverages, the changing people they put on him, certainly slowed him down some."
Following this loss, Mississippi State is now 14-7 overall and just 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs are 0-5 in road games. If Mississippi State is going to bounce back from this loss and get moving in the right direction, the Bulldogs will need Smith to play at the productive level that we know he's capable of.