January 13, 2012 8:09:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- What we learned?
Mississippi State senior point guard Dee Bost got to go home with a positive thoughts on a night that he struggled through a frustrating evening but the 20th-ranked Bulldogs (14-3, 1-1 in SEC) survived a 62-58 victory Thursday night over Tennessee.
Bost went from a potential disappointment to game-saving steal and one-handed throw down for the last basket of the evening. With seconds left in the contest, Tennessee point guard Trae Golden slipped on the Humphrey Coliseum floor allowing Bost to take the basketball and secure MSU's first SEC victory of the season.
While up by two and trying to create late in the shot clock, Bost fired a crosscourt pass that was intercepted by Tennessee guard Skylar McPhee giving the Volunteers (8-8, 1-1 in SEC) one last chance to tie or take the lead but Bost took that opportunity away seconds later in the ultimate redemption moment.
Bost came back in the second half to get eight points, four assists and a critical three-point conversion with just over three minutes to go to put MSU (14-3, 1-1) up 59-53.
Tennessee, which was coming off a home win over No. 18 Florida last weekend, continued to chip away at MSU's second-half lead thanks to the inside-out combination of forward Kenny Hall and Golden. The Volunteers physical style of play and improving defensive repuatation will make them a nuisance to play late in the season.
Hall, who has been moved to the bench since the start of SEC play, had 12 inside points in 28 minutes allowing for open looks when the basketball was rotated around to 6-foot-1 guard. Golden, the Vols point guard, nailed 4-for-6 from beyond the three-point arc for a game-high 20 points.
DeVille Smith proved Saturday night at Arkansas can't be categorized as a fluky performance.
In what could've gone down as a meaningless 25 points in his Southeastern Conference debut, mostly in garbage time with the Mississippi State men's basketball team down by more than 20 points at Bud Walton Arena against the Razorbacks, Smith posted career-high totals in a disappointing loss.
Tuesday night the freshman point guard from Jackson kept MSU from suffering back-to-back league losses and had the 7,588 in attendance in shock at some of the athletic maneuvering in a dazzling first-half show.
With SEC first-team preseason selection Dee Bost in early foul trouble, Smith was called upon earlier than Stansbury had imagined to provide a momentum spark and that's exactly what the 5-foot-10 guard accomplished. After 15 first-half minutes, Smith totaled five assists compared to no turnovers with two rebounds and a pair of made free throws.
When the freshman walked to the scorer's table, the game was tied at 8 and would go to the halftime locker room with nearly its biggest lead of the night up 36-27.
We also learned Jalen Steele really wanted to beat his hometown team and will probably answer many of the missed calls and text messages were on his phone when he got back to the locker room.
The Knoxville, Tenn., native, who nailed two three-point field goals to begin each half, was a part of his first career win over the University of Tennessee since signing with MSU nearly two years ago.
Steele, who went to Fulton High School, was not active for last year's victory at Thompson-Bolling Arena in the last game that would be announced by legendary radio voice Jack Cristil. The 6-foot-3 guard had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee before that game and was unable to even make the trip with the team.
What we heard?
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury:
"Our defense didn't make the trip across the Mississippi River before the Arkansas game (but) I didn't panic about that coming into this game. I know the effort was better."
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin:
"We did a good job of shooting the three-point shot but not just setting for jumpers. We had to go inside-out offensive to beat them."
Mississippi State junior forward Arnett Moultrie:
"We were able to match them inside. We knew Tennessee was a physical team and so we expected them to play us tough."
Mississippi State sophomore guard Jalen Steele:
"I'm out there to make these type of shots. Basically my job is go out there and play hard and make the open looks when they come to me."
Jan. 14 vs. Alabama (13-3, 2-0)
Alabama's defense is its calling card under coach Anthony Grant, as it is 10th best in the nation, with an allowed average of 55.9 points per game. Alabama's opponents are connecting on just 36.7 percent of their field goal attempts, the sixth lowest rate in the country.
"They will get up into you in the halfcourt defense and they will mix up with their zone defense," Stansbury said. "It's another quick turnaround."
Forward Tony Mitchell leads Alabama with 15.2 ppg and 7.2 rpg and he has been consistent all season, scoring in double-figures in 15-of-16 games so far. Sophomore Trevor Releford has led the Crimson Tide in scoring in three of the last four games, averaging 16.5 ppg on 26-of-37 shooting from the field with 13 assists and 12 steals during the span. JaMychal Green only had eight points with his 10 rebounds last game, but the senior forward has proven to be an impact player this season as he continues to get fully healthy after an injury slowed his progress after Christmas break. Green has had three 20-point performances in his last seven games and is second on the team in scoring and rebounding. The Tide does have some mixed offensive numbers as they are 194th in scoring (67.6 ppg) and 61st in shooting (46.9), but they are 333rd out of 345 teams in 3pt shooting (27.9%).
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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