November 27, 2011 4:36:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- What we learned?
Mississippi State dominated an overmatched North Texas team in the paint thanks to the return of junior forward Arnett Moultrie.
The Mean Green, with a starting lineup void of any dominant post body, were unable to stop the Bulldogs (7-1) from getting in the lane for a layup or free throws in its most efficient offensive production of the 2011 season.
MSU shot 63.3 percent from the field in the first with 30 points in the paint and were able to convert on 19-of-27 from the charity stripe.
Sunday afternoon's contest marked the return to the starting lineup for Moultrie, who would finish with 20 points and 9 rebounds, and junior center Renardo Sidney after both players were out with what MSU officials were calling nagging injuries.
Moultrie was a rebound short of his fourth double-double of the 2011-12 season but connected on all 10 of his free throws.
The former 6-foot-1 guard in ninth grade did everything from lead a fast break off the dribble, be the post player in MSU's four-guard lineup and provide defensive energy in alternating shots when North Texas' talented guard tried to attack the rim.
The highlight of the night was off a pick-and-roll screen when freshman guard DeVille Smith tossed the ball near the goal and Moultrie, a transfer from the University of Texas at El Paso, grabbed and dunked it with just his right arm.
Sidney got into early foul trouble picking up his third personal with over 8 minutes to play in the first half. However, the former McDonald's All-American tallied 9 points in 20 minutes of action in front of 4,803 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
Sophomore guard Jalen Steele got his first double-figure scoring effort with 11 point on 3-for-6 shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
The last time MSU posted a shooting percentage over 60 percent in the first half was was an 85-66 victory last year in Humphrey Coliseum against Auburn.
North Texas, who has had five consecutive 20-win seasons under head coach Johnny Jones, was overwhelmed even after switching in and out of several halfcourt defenses looks throughout the first 20 minutes of play.
The Mean Green (1-3) were without a single player over 6-feet-8 in their lineup and were simply dominated near the basket offensively.
MSU's bench got another lift from junior forward Wendell Lewis as the 6-foot-8 frontcourt backup had 8 points and 4 rebounds allowing Sidney to rest on the bench and not force Stansbury to put the 280-pound center back in the game quickly.
In the last two games, Lewis has a combined 19 points against UT-Martin and North Texas.
What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury:
"It was very obvious playing the two bigs (Moultrie and Sidney) had a little rust on us especially in the first half. I think we locked down more defensively in the second half. Won't be anymore of those (low or mid-major opponents) now because everybody knows who we got next Saturday night - one of the better teams in the country. I played (Moultrie and Sidney) them till they couldn't play. One of them (Sidney) was wanting to come out of the game and we just turned our head and let him stay in the game. He needed that. Arnett, I'm sure he had some rust about him, but his effort wasn't rusty at all. He just goes and gets (the basketball)."
North Texas head coach Johnny Jones:
"Our shots are going to fall eventually, but we've got to get some things cleaned up on defense. You just can't let a team shoot 63 percent in the first half and over 50 percent for the game and expect to win. That's just not good enough."
MSU senior guard Dee Bost:
"We got a lot of layups and paint touches and (the frontcourt players) did a good job of finishing on the break. We're versatile and a lot of weapons so if they're going to take away one option then we always we can rely on the post to score."
MSU sophomore guard Jalen Steele:
"Before the game coach told me to calm down and settle down. Just stop thinking so much and go out to do what you do best - make shot."
MSU junior forward Arnett Moultrie:
"I'm just glad to be back. I wanted to come out and be aggressive offensively and get in a good rhythm for this big game we got next weekend.
(The four-guard offense) is trying to speed teams up and play to our tempo at that time.
I spend a lot of time after hours in the gym shooting free throws because those are easy points. I have to make those."
University of West Virginia (Dec. 3, 8 p.m., ESPNU)
West Virginia is not close to the 2009-10 team that made the Final Four.
260-pound senior forward Kevin Jones leads the Mountaineers with 21.8 points per game but head coach Bob Huggins is trying to mix in eight freshmen into his rotation and defensively causing some headaches for the 29-year coaching veteran.
The Mountaineers (2-1) dropped a 70-60 decision to Kent State Tuesday morning in a game that was televised on ESPN as part of the network's 24 hours of college basketball.
The Mountaineers had a five point lead at halftime before the Golden Flashes went on a 19-4 run early in the second half to take control of the game.
West Virginia shot just 36.8 percent from the floor, but it was the Mountaineers' inability to handle the basketball that led to Kent State's big run. So far this season West Virginia's backcourt players have struggled with pressure, turning the ball over 38 times in games against Oral Roberts and Kent State.
This is the first time turnovers have been a real issue for the Mountaineers since 2002 when they averaged 17.5 turnovers per game on the way to an 8-20 record. Since then, West Virginia's worst season handling the basketball was in 2003 when it averaged 13 turnovers per game.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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