January 10, 2012 2:16:00 AM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE --- The Mississippi State men's basketball program will have until Thursday night to try and answer the obvious question: what is wrong with the defense?
After matching the most points given up in the 14-year head coaching career of Rick Stansbury Saturday night in a 98-88 loss at Arkansas, the 20th-ranked Bulldogs (13-3, 0-1 in Southeastern Conference play), the MSU coach is still shaking his head at the effort.
"The game we just come off of, they hit us in the mouth early, and I don't know if we ever recovered from it," Stansbury said. "They just kept coming at us. They played great. they did things different ways I hadn't seen them do."
Adding to the concerns is the news from MSU spokesperson Gregg Ellis Monday that Stansbury and other members of the Bulldogs coaching staff were so under the weather with various illnesses that practice was canceled for the entire day.
Arkansas had 46 points in the paint Saturday night and only 26 points total from four Razorbacks frontcourt players, which is a major cause for concern for the MSU perimeter defense because that details how many layups the home teams' guards earned.
Stansbury tried to counter the up-tempo style of Arkansas (12-3, 1-0) by putting junior center Renardo Sidney on the bench at the start of the game for the first time in the 2011-12 season. When asked why Sidney was asked to come off the bench at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Stansbury didn't go into much detail into the decision except saying it was not a disciplinary issue.
"Just my decision not to start him," Stansbury said. "Saving him from foul trouble early. Just my decision not to start him."
Stansbury lamented on the effort of the Bulldogs shooting guard pair of senior Brian Bryant and sophomore Jalen Steele (8 points, 3 turnovers, 1 assist vs. Hogs on Saturday). Stansbury explained their inactivity affected them most on the full-court press and trying to get a good offensive look once MSU got across the mid-court line. MSU continues to have problems with opponents pressuring senior guard Dee Bost, a Wooden Award nominee, and the Bulldogs have had trouble getting the ball back in Bost's hands to run the offense when he's pressured and coming out of timeouts.
"I didn't think Jalen (Steele) and Brian (Bryant) as that other guard out there made a lot of things happen, which they've got to do when people trap Dee," Stansbury said. "Those guys have got to go make some basketball plays."
n Tennessee gets 270-pound forward cleared by NCAA: Tennessee freshman forward Jarnell Stokes has begun practicing with the University of Tennessee men's basketball team but Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin called it unlikely Monday that he'd play at Mississippi State this week.
The NCAA Eligibility Center approved Stokes' high school transcript last week and he enrolled in the spring semester on Jan. 4. The 6-foot-8, 270-pound Stokes graduated from Memphis Southwind High School three weeks ago and will begin classes on the Knoxville campus Wednesday.
Stokes, ranked No. 11 in the nation by Rivals.com, is not likely to see playing time this week against MSU in Humphrey Coliseum (8 p.m., ESPN2) until he's properly conditioned to play in the Southeastern Conference.
"I don't think he'll play this week," Martin said in the SEC teleconference Monday. "It's a matter of when we feel he's ready, physically, to play. He's so far removed from playing 5-on-5 with contact, cutting, running and jumping."
n Young honored by SEC after big game vs. MSU: Arkansas freshman guard B.J. Young was named Southeastern Conference freshman player of the week Monday for a two-game stretch in which he averaged 20.5 points.
The league announced the award on Monday, taking note of Young's 24-point performance in Saturday's victory over Mississippi State. He made 10-for-13 attempts and had three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
"This is a personal game for me with my dad being from Starkville and what we were able to do is show our fans what we'd been working on all summer and what we could do," Young said Saturday.
"My dad wanted me to go to Mississippi State and my mom wanted me to go to Arkansas. All of my family were in the arena tonight."
Young's 24-point night was third-highest in school history for a freshman playing in his first SEC game. On the season, Young is averaging 14.8 points per game.