December 14, 2011 2:20:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- What we learned?
Mississippi State's men's basketball team has new players but a new resolve as compared to the pre-Christmas version of the Bulldogs program last season.
The 17th-ranked Bulldogs simply refused to suffer another upset home loss and pulled away from the Owls for a 75-68 victory in which they were without the services of starters Arnett Moultrie and Brian Bryant.
MSU's start to this season is its best since beginning the 2003-04 campaign a perfect 13-0.
Less than a month after verbally committing to the Bulldogs program, Rodney Hood was in Meridian trying in the early process of leading his high school team to a Class 6A state championship season during the upset loss to FAU at Humphrey Coliseum last December. The 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year selection out of high school got his first career double-double while playing every second of action for the first time in his college career.
Dee Bost, MSU's Wooden Award nominee, was calling clear-out sets for himself to get 13 of his game-high 22 points in the final nine minutes of the contest. Bost was on the bench in street clothes last year while serving a penalty for missing the NBA Draft withdraw date before the start of the 2010-11 season.
FAU (4-6) was unable to complete the 13-point second-half comeback due to missing 11-of-18 free throws and committing two costly turnovers late in the contest.
For the third game this season, MSU (10-1) was without the services of junior forward Arnett Moultrie. The current leader of the Southeastern Conference in rebounds and double-doubles was inactive with what State officials said was tendinitis in both knees. Without Moultrie and starting guard Brian Bryant, who was serving the final game of his university-mandated three-game suspension, MSU essentially tried to avoid another upset bid by the favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference.
Despite his costly late turnovers that frustrated Jarvis, FAU 5-foot-6 guard Raymond Taylor led his team in scoring with a season-high 20 points. The preseason Sun Belt first-team selection scored just seven points and went 0-for-4 from beyond the three-point arc in last season's 61-59 win over MSU. Tuesday night Taylor drained some key late three-pointers to keep the Owls within striking distance.
With the Bulldogs already playing with a short rotation, MSU junior forward Renardo Sidney made the situation worse by getting two early fouls just six minutes into the game and forced to sit next to Stansbury for the rest of the first half. When the 280-pound forward had to leave the game, MSU was forced to go with an extremely small four-guard lineup that included Wendell Lewis as the only frontcourt player.
Sidney would finish with 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes of action.
What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury:
"This was one of those games where you have to find a way to survive and that's what we did. We were down Brian Bryant and Arnett Moultrie for the game; Arnett was there if we needed him to play. We needed him, but it got so late in the game that I did not want to risk it. What made this game so difficult was that we were down to only six guys who could play. Sidney picked up his fourth foul and then we were down to only five. Deville wasn't very good tonight so that put us at only four players who could play. A lot of the mistakes we made tonight were out of exhaustion. Our guys had to find a way to hang on and win the game. I am proud of our guys because of how we won the game. This was one of those games where we could have easily let slip away from us."
Florida Atlantic head coach Mike Jarvis:
"We make them in practice, but when we had to make them in the game, we didn't; there are no excuses. We have to be confident when we go to the line, we have to shoot to make it that's the bottom line. (Raymond Taylor) is doing better but still not good enough. He had two crucial turnovers. We've got to do a better job at bringing it home and taking care of the ball. He did play a good game but he has the capability of doing a lot better."
MSU senior guard Dee Bost:
"Someone had to step up down the stretch, especially being down two guys. We just had to fi nd a way to win. I was trying to make plays and put the team on my back. If they collapsed down on me, I had to find a way to fi nd our shooters."
MSU freshman guard Rodney Hood:
"I was just being smart and understanding the game. I know Dee was getting tired with the guards pressuring him all game, so I had to make smart plays and make something happen.'"
Saturday at University of Detroit (11a.m., ESPN3)
MSU now faces its first road test of the season when it travels to Calihan Hall to play at the University of Detroit Saturday (11 a.m.) and will try to slow down McDonald's All-American point guard Ray McCallum Jr.
The return of center Eli Holman is a huge factors for a Titans team that has struggled more than most thought out of the early season stretch. The 6-10, 260-pound senior from Richmond, Calif.missed the first 10 games while on an indefinite leave of absence from the team. His return to the court against Western Michigan resulted in 92-81 win along with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks in just 19 minutes. The Titans have the league's second-best scoring offense (74.1 ppg) with an exciting brand of play on that end, but they also are last in the league in scoring defense (70.6 ppg).
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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