December 29, 2011 8:22:00 AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With some time to sleep on Mississippi State's two-point loss to No. 6 Baylor Thursday, here's a quick look at what happened in what has to be considered a classic litmus test for both teams Wednesday night.
- What we learned?
Okay......fair or unfair (and that's a healthy debate worth having after this game and a legitimate argument either way) Renardo Sidney is going to get blamed for this loss after what he did with 1:35 left on the clock. After playing only 19 minutes due to heavy foul trouble, Renardo Sidney drew his fifth and final foul and a technical on the same possession. Down 52-50, Baylor's Quincy Miller hit one of two foul shots, while Quincy Acy also hit one of two foul shots to tie the game with 1:35 remaining.
Sidney did tie for the team-lead with 10 points and was dominant in the low post against Baylor's rotation of low post defenders.
The Bulldogs did rebound the second free throw miss, but could not answer with Dee Bost missing on the offensive end. After a rebound by Perry Jones III, the Bears point guard Pierre Jackson drove right around Bost for a wide-open, game-winning layup with 28 seconds left.
The major issue State should have is against a solid opponent with over 20 seconds to get a solid look either at the low block or with a pick-and-roll action didn't happen. After some scattered play with the basketball, thanks to some great denial defense by Baylor guard A.J. Walton, Bost failed to touch the ball for the final part of the game and clearly the set that was called in the huddle was for him to create something off the dribble. Plan B unfortunately became freshman guard Rodney Hood taking an off-balanced contested jump shot that was blocked. Not exactly the look and execution MSU coach Rick Stansbury was hoping for in a game-tying situation.
The next chance I get, I plan to ask the Bulldogs 14-year head coach if he ever considered just letting a play call happen when MSU crossed the time line with 20 seconds left and Bost controlling the ball with the dribble. Baylor coach Scott Drew DESPERATELY wanted a timeout before the ball was inbounded to Bost under the basket and then Stansbury (probably unknowing and by natural instinct) gave him the timeout he wanted in order for MSU to set up its last offensive set. NOTE: Stansbury always calls that timeout there but the question is worth asking.
"It was not because of a lack of effort," Stansbury said. "We really fought tonight. We played a great basketball team down to the final possession of the game."
On the other sideline, college basketball fans learned two things about Baylor. Their guard play is significantly better with the additions of Boston College transfer Brady Heslip's shooting and former junior college All-American Pierre Jackson's ability to create off the dribble. They are also a major force in Baylor's 1-3-1 zone defense that allows the Bears to have long, athletic wings to come out 25 feet away to contest perimeter players and basically turn their defense into a mix-and-match man-to-man. In short: very impressive scheme to fit his personnel by Drew, who to be honest I've been hard on for having teams that had less structure in big games since taking the job at Baylor.
29 scouts from 25 National Basketball Association scouts were present in American Airlines Center to essentially see the Arnett Moultrie/Perry Jones III matchup. While the novice basketball fan will say neither player was productive by looking at the box score, none of that is accurate. Moultrie was impressive on defense and the most physical he's been in defending the below average face-up post game by Jones III. Moultrie was physically able to push Jones III out to the 12-15 feet away from the basket before he would get the post catch from a Baylor guard. A major key to the fact that Baylor's projected lottery pick went 4-for-13 for only eight points.
Moultrie was two points away from his eighth double-double of the season with eight points and 10 rebounds Wednesday night.
In a game that was smartly scheduled by both teams in order to properly prepare both Top 15 programs for the rigors of conference play, Baylor (13-0) found out they know how to win even if they don't shoot well and score consistently.
Mississippi State (12-2) learned they can knock off a Final Four contender in a NCAA Tournament-like contest in a neutral site but need to be better in late-game situations to pull out close games.
- What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury:
"Good games always come down to a play here or there. That is what this game came down to. We missed some shots and left too many free throws on the line. We also turned the ball over some at critical times."
Baylor coach Scott Drew:
"This team really defended and rebounded tonight, and that is why we won shooting only 21 percent. Mississippi State is a great team and I think everyone realizes their potential the rest of the year."
Dec. 31 at Humphrey Coliseum versus Utah State (2 p.m.)
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.
1. Rock Sanders: Life in the fast lane COMMUNITY