November 12, 2011 11:58:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State men's basketball responded Saturday from an early season wake-up call with an effort coach Rick Stansbury was more than happy to discuss.
Three days after being unable to explain why his team delivered a lackluster performance at home in a loss to the University of Akron, MSU regrouped and played an energized 40 minutes, even if it wasn't at full strength.
Arnett Moultrie made up for the absence of Renardo Sidney with a career-high 28 points and a game-high 13 rebounds to lead MSU to an 80-65 victory against the University of South Alabama before a paid attendance of 7,962 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Dee Bost (16 points, seven rebounds), Rodney Hood (15 points, four rebounds), and Brian Bryant (10 points, four assists) scored in double figures for the Bulldogs. Sidney watched the game from the MSU bench in warmups due to a groin injury.
Stansbury said he wasn't sure if Sidney, a 6-foot-10 junior forward, would be able to play for MSU's game against Texas A&M at 6 p.m. Thursday in the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden in New York. MSU (2-1) will play Arizona or St. John's on Friday in the final game of the invitational tournament.
Stansbury admitted his team's effort Saturday was much more to his liking. The Bulldogs had a 41-33 edge in rebounding (18-8 advantage on the offensive glass), forced 14 turnovers, and had a 13-6 assist-to-turnover ratio that was just a part of a solid performance.
"I am just proud of our kids' effort and how hard they played. That is more like it," Stansbury said. "We had some make-shift lineups we hadn't had a chance to work with. We didn't know Sid wasn't going to go until gametime. We had to play small a bunch. Most importantly, I was proud of our effort."
Stansbury didn't have the same kind words for his players Wednesday following a 68-58 loss to Akron. He said Saturday he never wants to use excuses, but he admitted his players were fatigued against Akron and weren't as quick as they were against the Jaguars.
Stansbury said Moultrie is one player who has maintained a consistent effort. Statistically, his eight-point effort against Akron and 7-footer Zeke Marshall didn't show it, but Moultrie still had a game-high 15 rebounds in 38 minutes.
MSU's first possession of the game went inside to Moultrie, who missed a hook shot. He had five of the team's first 11 shots and had 10 points at halftime.
"We knew offensively he was our go-to as a post guy," Stansbury said. "When he has a four guy on him, which he did, it is a little easier sometimes to get him in there."
Moultrie, a 6-11 junior transfer from the University of Texas at El Paso said he watched game film, talked with his coaches, and was encouraged to slow down. He wanted to get off to a fast start after going 2 of 13 from the field against Akron. He said his showing against South Alabama probably was the second best of his career next to a 23-point effort in an 82-56 win against Arkansas State on Nov. 21, 2009, when he was still at UTEP.
"I wanted to come out aggressive offensively so I can get myself back in a good rhythm before we head to New York," Moultrie said.
Moultrie said the Bulldogs are working on their continuity on offense so he and Sidney will be able to play off each other and with each other to maximize their strengths.
On Saturday, Moultrie often was MSU's only post player on the court. The move to a four-guard lineup allowed MSU to be more active and to play at a faster pace. The Bulldogs only had two fast-break points, but they had 18 points off turnovers and a 23-9 edge in second-chance points.
"That's how we want to be," Moultrie said. "We want to be a team that gets out in transition, that uses our defense, speed, and athleticism and gets turnovers. That's how we're going to beat teams. That's our team right there."
Bost, the team's senior leader, played a team-high 35 minutes in the third game in six days. He saw more time at two guard as freshman DeVille Smith had four assists and his first two points in 19 minutes, mostly at the point. Coming off a game in which he had 13 points and tried in vain to spark MSU against Akron, Bost said the Bulldogs showed against the Jaguars how they need to play the rest of the season.
"In the Akron game, they kind of came out and hit us in the mouth first," Bost said. "He (Stansbury) told us before the game we wanted to set the tempo for this game on the defensive end and it carried over to the offensive end.
"We knew (South Alabama) was a good team and we couldn't come out playing around, so we knew we just had to come out and play hard every game and can't take anymore losses we don't need. Everybody had their mind to go out there and play hard and jump out on them from the jump."
South Alabama (0-1) shot 55.6 percent in the second half, but couldn't get closer than 11 points in final 20 minutes. Augustine Rubit led the Jaguars with 16 points, while freshman Mychal Ammons, of Vicksburg, had 15 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. The Jaguars have only one player on their roster who is 6-8 or taller, but they still had a 40-30 edge in points in the paint.
USA coach Ronnie Arrow said the Bulldogs are an "explosive team" without Sidney in the lineup. He said his team struggled to keep MSU off the offensive glass, and complimented Moultrie for his effort. He said Stansbury's teams always play hard, but he noticed a difference without Sidney in the starting lineup. Junior Wendell Lewis started in place of Sidney.
"When you have guys able to cover more inside with quickness, then those guards out there can take extra chances," Arrow said. "I think tonight that had a lot to do with it.
"I was sort of hoping (Sidney) played."
NOTES: Freshman forward Roquez Johnson saw his first action, as did sophomore walk-ons Reed Clayton and Tyson Cunningham, of Columbus High. None of the players scored. ... Bost passed Marckell Patterson into 24th place in the MSU all-time scoring list. He now has 1,172 points.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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