January 25, 2012 8:57:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- One week ago, Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Stansbury knocked the table with his fist twice and looked to the sky when asked about his team dodging injuries during the 2011-12 season.
It was almost as if the 14-year veteran knew he had sealed the Bulldogs' fate.
Last weekend, MSU (16-4, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) was forced to travel to Nashville, Tenn., without freshman point guard DeVille Smith after he was checked into a Jackson area hospital for the second time this season after suffering from symptoms of headaches and dizziness.
"I don't know if it's ever been perfect, but it seems to come and go (for) whatever reason," said Stansbury, whose team will play host to LSU (12-7, 1-3 at 7 tonight (WCBI) at Humphrey Coliseum. "It could lay there forever and it comes out. They say it's not uncommon. I've never seen anything like it."
Without Smith, Brian Bryant likely will be assume the ballhandling duties behind starter Dee Bost.
"I can't be aggressive as I want, especially on defense because fatigue and we really don't have a backup point guard," Bost said Monday. "I have to play smart."
In his last action Wednesday, Smith played seven scoreless minutes in a 75-68 loss at the University of Mississippi.
More responsibilities also will fall to freshman wing player Rodney Hood. The former Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Mississippi said he will do his best to make up for the absence of Smith, who he called repeatedly last spring to recruit him to MSU.
"It's tough (because) that's my brother," Hood said Monday. "I haven't talked to him, but I know he's doing what he's got to do to get better."
Stansbury said he might try to work sophomore Shaun Smith, who has
only played two minutes in two games this season, back into the rotation, but he acknowledged the best option might be to go with a seven-man rotation and to rely on starters to play at least 35 minutes a game this week.
"I think we played six guys the first half (against Vanderbilt)," Stansbury said. "We're going to need (Shaun Smith's) body. It shortens our rotation way down, now. Way down."
On the game-winning play in the 78-77 overtime victory against Vanderbilt University on Saturday, MSU junior center Renardo Sidney grabbed his right foot in pain after slipping on the Memorial Gymnasium floor. Sidney was helped off the floor by teammates and MSU trainer Scott Johnson.
Stansbury said Monday he had learned Sidney's injury occurred in the knee of that leg, but he wasn't able to comment on the 6-foot-10 center's availability for tonight's game against LSU.
"He's got some soreness with it," Stansbury said Monday. "How hard can he go? ... I'll find out here in a few minutes."
Sidney scored nine points against Vanderbilt and stood tall defensively against center Festus Ezeli, holding the senior to four points in the final 25 minutes. To say his 280-pound body is critical to the Bulldogs' thin front-court depth is an understatement.
"I don't think more criticism can be thrown out at him than what's already been thrown at him in the last year and a half," Stansbury said. "Everything about him is better. There's not much you can say that hadn't been said. Naturally nobody likes those things, but it should be less than it's ever been."
Tonight, Sidney likely will be asked to guard Justin Hamilton, a 7-foot forward who leads LSU in scoring (14.1 points per game) and rebounding (7.5). In SEC play, he's averaging 19.0 ppg.
"They are just as talented as anyone," Stansbury said Monday "They have great post depth. Justin Hamilton is as good of a post player there is in this league. He went to Florida and scored 27. He is the one difference for their team. They can throw it in the paint or throw it to the short corners, and Hamilton can score in a lot of different ways."
After being forced to play all 45 minutes against Vanderbilt, MSU junior forward Arnett Moultrie smiled Monday and said he hadn't been on the floor that long since back-to-back-to-back games on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit. The transfer from the University of Texas at El Paso had 21 points and 14 rebounds against the Commodores for his league-best 11th double-double.
"I'm not so sure there is a better player in terms of being efficient and productivity than Moultrie," LSU coach Trent Johnson said Monday.
Stansbury joked he didn't think the 45 minutes was accurate.
"We took him out for 15 seconds," Stansbury said Monday. "I took Arnett out about the 8:15 mark in the first half and for whatever reason, a dead ball, at right about 8 minutes to go we got him right back in there. So hey, we rested him. How much rest you gonna give him?"
After facing LSU, the Bulldogs will travel Saturday to Gainesville, Fla., to take on No. 13 University of Florida at 12:30 p.m. (SEC Network).
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