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Next Step for Rebuilding Mississippi State Basketball is Fixing Road Woes

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MSU basketball hasn't found any consistency on the road in quite a while. Ben Howland will have to change that for the program to take the next step.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

After the team's first conference win last week against rival Ole Miss, Mississippi State's momentum on the hardwood was quickly halted with Tuesday night's loss at South Carolina.

The road losses have quickly piled up for MSU the last few seasons, and so far that hasn't improved under first-year coach Ben Howland.

The Bulldogs have won just two games away from Humphrey Coliseum this season, and both of those were neutral site games -- Missouri State in Puerto Rico and Northern Colorado in Jackson. Howland's squad is winless in six opportunities on the road.

In three seasons under Rick Ray, MSU went a putrid 4-29 on the road. Interestingly, all four of those were SEC games.

Howland has his players competitive in nearly every game. That's a good start. But if MSU is going to become relevant again in college basketball, the road woes will eventually have to come to an end.

Obviously with the state of the program there haven't been many wins regardless of location. But the team has played significantly better at the Hump (27-22 under Ray and 6-3 so far under Howland) than away from it. The current group of players are nowhere close to cracking the .500 mark on the road.

For the seniors like Craig Sword and Gavin Ware, you know they're anxious to put that behind them and pull out some W's in tough road environments.

Howland has his guys close to breaking that barrier. The losses at Florida State and Arkansas got out of hand, but road losses against Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina were decided by an average of six points.

The remaining road schedule isn't favorable with matchups against Missouri, LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss looming.

Even if Howland goes winless in those games, it won't be held against him. He won't be judged too harshly on wins and losses until he gets his hand-picked players into the program.

But you can bet once he does, he will preach to them from day one the importance of first defending their own floor -- but also winning on the road.

It's what the elite basketball teams are able to do.