January 25, 2012 10:04:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- What we learned?
The 8,681 in attendance at Humphrey Coliseum learned Mississippi State (17-4, 4-2 in Southeastern Conference) can take care of business in a home game they were clearly favored in but still managed to make it interesting late in the contest. Despite some late game heroics from LSU, the Bulldogs hung on for a 76-71 victory. The 18th-ranked Bulldogs attempted to sleepwalk through the first half with a open-court steal and layup at the halftime buzzer to take a one-point advantage into the locker room at 32-31.
Moultrie, who is a finalist for the John Wooden Award, finished with his 12th double-double effort of the season with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Against a revolving door of post players rolled in and out from LSU coach Trent Johnson, Moultrie was able to get dunks, layups, tipins and points mostly from offensive rebounds.
MSU senior point guard Dee Bost was three rebounds and a single point from his first career triple-double effort as the Bob Cousy Award finalist finished with nine points, 10 assists and seven rebounds while playing 40 minutes of action without the services of backup DeVille Smith to help give him a breather throughout the evening.
In his Southeastern Conference debut, LSU freshman forward Johnny O'Bryant had six points and four rebounds in his first game since breaking his left hand on Jan. 4 and having surgery on it 11 days later. O'Bryant, a former 4-star recruit from Cleveland, was a major target last year for the Bulldogs program before signing with the Tigers.
LSU point guard Anthony Hickey hit back-to-back three-pointers with less than a minute to play to bring the deficit to a single point. MSU freshman guard Rodney Hood would drain a pair of free throws to make it a three-point lead with 13 seconds left in the contest. As Hickey got across the time line, he tried to throw it back to LSU player that set a ball screen for him but the pass was deflected by Bost and eventually sent into the arms of Moultrie for what was nearly a game-winning layup. The junior would be fouled and Johnson would be handed a technical foul after his fiery outburst following the play to ensure State's 11th straight win in Starkville.
What we heard?
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury:
"We didn't have our edge tonight and that's what you have to do in this league is find a way to survive when you're not at your best."
LSU coach Trent Johnson:
"It's really hard to fault our guys effort tonight. It is really hard when you don't have a phony bone in your body and your have to politically correct. Let me explain to you how I am. When you have good kids and they fight and compete and there is stuff out there that you don't like, and you know what is going on, you struggle with it. We don't feel good about losing.
Mississippi State junior forward Arnett Moultrie on the final steal that sealed the victory:
"I kept thinking 'they're not going to get another lucky 3-pointer'. I think my quickness was a problem for them. They had me boxed out but my quickness allowed me to still get to the boards."
Mississippi State senior point guard Dee Bost:
"I wasn't really looking to score tonight. Coach told me to go out and get 10 assists and that's exactly what I did."
What's next?: at No. 14 Florida (15-4, 3-1)
Florida (15-4, 3-1) leads the SEC with 82.2 points per game and ranks first in both 3-point percentage (40.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.46). The Gators feature four of the best guards in the nation and two of them consistently lead their team in scoring. Erving Walker, tied for the conference lead with 4.9 assists, directs the offense, while Kenny Boynton, second in the league with 18.3 points per game, handles most of the scoring.
Neither had a particularly strong game Saturday against LSU, and the Gators misfired on 14 of 21 tries from beyond the arc, but Billy Donovan's team won 76-64. Walker had 12 points, three assists and was 1 for 6 from 3-point range, while Boynton had 11 points -- his second-lowest output of the season -- and missed all four 3-point attempts.
The Gators still had three other players in double figures -- Erik Murphy (15), Bradley Beal (11) and Mike Rosario (11) -- and shot a season-best 56.3 percent, making 20 of 27 shots (74.1 percent) from inside the arc.
After six players reached double figures in UF's first road win at South Carolina, Florida followed it up off a bye during the week with five players reaching double figures against LSU.
"Anybody on our team can really score, and that is really important to us," Florida junior forward Erik Murphy said. "We have to try to continue to play together and spread the wealth."
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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