December 23, 2011 12:40:00 AM
JACKSON -- What we learned?
Against a scrappy low-major opponent in its annual trip to the Mississippi Coliseum, the 18th-ranked Mississippi State's men's basketball team used its significant height and physical advantage to cruise to a 82-67 victory Thursday night over Northwestern State
MSU (12-1) are now 9-0 in school history under coach Rick Stansbury in the capital city of Jackson and are off to their best start since 2003-04 campaign.
MSU's start to this season is its best since beginning the 2003-04 campaign a perfect 13-0.
The MSU forwards that saw playing time outscored Northwestern State's frontcourt players 49-20. The 45 rebounds for the Bulldogs are the second-highest total of the season.
Arnett Moultrie, who leads the Southeastern Conference in double-doubles and rebounds, dominated underneath the hoop with 24 points and 14 rebounds. The game was put completely out of reach after a alley-oop from freshman DeVille Smith to Moultrie for a power slam to make it 73-54 with less than six minutes left in the contest.
Renardo Sidney would not be a factor after nine points in just 11 first-half minutes as the junior, playing in his first career regular season game in his hometown, after he suffered a strained patella tendon in his left leg. After being checked out by the MSU training staff, the 280-pound junior sat on the bench for the rest of the game with ice packs down his left leg.
In his return home to Jackson, Smith would have six points and three assists including some highlight worthy material that has become the norm for the former Jackson Callaway High star in 17 minutes of action. While still looking lost initially in MSU's halfcourt action, Smith relished the opportunity to turn the game into an up-and-down flurry of action and was a big part in the Bulldogs stretching the lead to 20 points in the first half.
The Bulldogs first frontcourt player off the bench had a career-high 14 points as junior 6-foot-8 forward Wendell Lewis in 25 minutes on the floor.
MSU survived a disappointing offensive night from senior point guard Dee Bost but the Bob Cousey Award finalist, given to the nation's best point guard, as he shot just 3-of-14 from the field but ran the offense effectively and forcing Demons leading scorer Zamir Davis to a team-high five turnovers.
What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury:
"Our team got off to a big lead and then just kind of coasted. We had our bags packed for the holidays and that's where their mind was at that point.
Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy:
"The one shot you can't defend in basketball is the offensive rebound and Arnett Moultrie just killed us with those. He really took the steam out of that rally we had because he just kept extending their possessions. We had no answer."
MSU junior forward Arnett Moultrie:
"I think (his performance) had a lot to do with me being 6-foot-11 and being athletic so it's hard for people to box me out," Moultrie said. "Even when they do, I've got quickness to get around them."
Dec. 28 at Dallas versus No. 6 Baylor (8 p.m., ESPN2)
The Bears, who are a preseason Final Four contender and Big 12 Conference favorite, opens 11-0 (best start under head coach Scott Drew) for just the second time in program history, and first instance since 2000-01 season when they opened 12-0.
Baylor is 43-14 in the Drew era when ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The Bears are now 9-0 this season when scoring 70-plus points. Baylor is one of only six undefeated Division I teams remaining - Indiana, Louisville, Marquette, Missouri, Murray State and Syracuse are the others.
The big matchup will be Moultrie versus sophomore forward Perry Jones III, who is super athletic forward with an enormous upside. His explosiveness and physical package put him in a very rare group of players even at the top level. Baylor's frontcourt star possesses the versatility to play inside and on the perimeter by being extremely fast, using his long and powerful strides to cover great distance in a very short time ... A very natural and smooth athlete, he is able to change direction and get off the ground (even on 2nd and 3rd jumps) with ease ... Has the ability and confidence to handle the ball in the open court and is willing to push it out in transition once he gets it off the glass. Sound familiar with MSU's big man?
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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