January 23, 2012 3:07:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- With a couple days to evaluate Mississippi State's one-point overtime win at Vanderbilt Saturday, here's a quick look at what happened in a critical victory for the Bulldogs program going forward.
- What we learned?
First of all, we all learned that Mississippi State (16-4, 3-2 in SEC play) can do something everybody that has watched this team wasn't sure it could accomplish: beat a quality team on the road. Make no mistake about it, Vanderbilt (14-5, 4-1) is going to be an NCAA Tournament team and the victory in Nashville for MSU is its best looking performance of the 2011-12 season but after losses at Arkansas and Ole Miss, the Bulldogs were staring down another loss at Humphrey Coliseum and salvaged a possible remodel to its own tournament resume with the overtime victory.
We learned that senior point guard Dee Bost might just be back to being the preseason first-team selection player everybody expected him to be at. Not only did the Bob Cousy Award finalist lead lead all scorers with 24 points and hit the game-winning layup but also played 43 minutes and only had four turnovers. What's critical to State's success is the Bulldogs found a way (out of a timeout) to draw up an offensive look for Bost late in a game that didn't involve him having the basketball at the top of the key. This complete reversal for MSU head coach Rick Stansbury forces opponents to now guard State differently and make Bost a more effective mover without the basketball on a back cut in a late-game situation instead of being face guarded by his defender in a denial style. The more MSU showcases versatility in its primary ball-handler makes them dangerous to prepare for defensively.
Mississippi State can come from behind. Until Saturday's win at Memorial Gymnasium, MSU was 0-4 when down at halftime this season leaving some to wonder about the toughness of this veteran group. The 18-2 run that MSU came out of the locker room with made all those doubts, at least for one night, disappear.
We all learned Vanderbilt's weak link and his name is Brad Tinsley. Defensively he's a viability to the point that Commodores coach Kevin Stallings was unable to trust his point guard to check Bost in the second half and then what happened? The 14,316 in attendance were introduced into a shooting exhibition by Jalen Steele. The sophomore had easily his best game in a MSU uniform and best shooting performance since recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament last year going 5-for-8 from beyond the three-point arc mostly off open looks while Tinsley lost him either in transition or off dribble penetration because Jeffrey Taylor wasn't quick enough to keep Bost in front of him.
According to MSU spokesman Gregg Ellis, freshman point guard DeVille Smith checked into a Jackson area hospital Friday morning for the second time this season after suffering from headaches and dizziness. The 5-foot-10 point guard from Jackson missed State's win and his availability for the LSU game in Starkville Wednesday and a road contest at Florida on Saturday is not known yet.
Arnett Moultrie was the hardest working player on the floor for either team. Here's what makes the 6-foot-11 transfer from the University of Texas at El Paso one of the candidates for Southeastern Conference Player of the Year is he's able to go for 21 points and 14 rebounds while playing all 45 minutes possible. Moultrie is still having a frustrating night offensively when given touches at the low block and would be mind boggling to defend if he had a consistent effective go-to post move.
Renardo Sidney can sure pass out of either the low and high post. For the first time in the 2011-12 season, the 6-foot-10 post threat showcased his two best talents Saturday evening and it had nothing to do with putting the basketball through the net. Once he made the turnaround jumper and layup out of the post against Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli, he was forcing the Commodores to come with a double-team. When it came from the low post, he hit Steele with a pass for a three-point field goal. In the game-winning play, he found Bost on a slipped back cut with a bounce pass between two Vanderbilt defenders. This is something that Sidney, who I tweeted was the 'Bermuda Triangle of college basketball' had not shown and been too selfish with the basketball to display because he wanted offensive chances. His ability to pass and find open defenders and be respected with double team makes it almost impossible for an open shooter to not be found if the ball is properly rotated out of the low post.
As MSU still fights for one of the top four seeds and a first round bye in the SEC Tournament, the Bulldogs will likely be favored now in six of its next seven games and can get some more momentum heading into a Feb. 21 home contest with No. 1 Kentucky.
- What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury:
"We could have come into this game in a valley, but we came into this game even-keel. Our defense came in pretty good, they played hard. You can't really stop Vanderbilt, but our ability to defend them won the game for us."
Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings:
"Our defensive effort in the second half, especially at the start of the second half, was brutal, so we got what we deserved. We fell in love with the three-point shot. I'm not sure if we thought it was going to be easy or something... We shouldn't have to learn that lesson."
Jan. 25 vs. LSU (12-5, 1-3)
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.
5. King of the Con Men BOOK REVIEWS