November 25, 2009 5:16:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men''s basketball coach Rick Stansbury challenged sophomore forward Romero Osby a week ago.
Stansbury wanted to get Osby''s attention about his role off the bench.
Osby said Stansbury stressed the importance of using his size (6-foot-8, 230 pounds), strength, and athleticism to make a difference in games.
"He wants me to the offensive boards, drive the ball into the lane, and be under control when I come in," Osby said. "At the beginning of the season, (Stansbury) said he didn''t really know what he was going to get, so he said I need to make my own identity."
Stansbury watched Tuesday night as Osby scored eight points, had two rebounds and two assists, and provided more of what he was looking for in a 75-50 victory against Texas-Pan American.
"He needs to see the next play happen and give us great energy off the bench," Stansbury said. "We need for people to come off that bench who can change the flow of the game."
MSU has a tough two-game stretch against Richmond University at 5 p.m. Friday and Old Dominion University or University of Missouri on Saturday at the South Padre Island Invitational in Texas.
The Bulldogs (3-1) have eight non-conference road or neutral site games before starting the Southeastern Conference schedule.
Stansbury said those games should be a measuring stick for his squad, which was No. 18th in the first Associated Press before it lost to Rider 88-74 on Nov. 13.
"Going on the road, you really find out what you are made of," Stansbury said. "Everybody is good at home, but on the road it''s different. I like going on the road from those standpoints. You find out a whole lot more about your team."
Despite returning all five starters from a team that won the SEC tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament last season, Osby said MSU has worked in the offseason to go on the road.
"Coach preaches all of the time about being productive when we go on the road," Osby said. "If everybody has the right mind-set, we have a chance to do damage when we get (to South Padre Island)."
Stansbury is concerned his team isn''t ready to face the competition of Richmond (4-1) and Old Dominion (4-0) or Missouri (3-0).
The lack of a rhythm offensively bothers Stansbury as the Bulldogs only led winless Texas-Pan American (0-5) 33-31 with 11 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first half and 42-33 at halftime.
The Broncs outscored the MSU bench 12-4 at one point of the first half, but edged the visitors at the end 22-20.
Osby knows the Bulldogs can''t afford to get off to a slow start against future opponents.
"To be where we want to be, we''re going to have to get out and defend in the first half and not just pick it up in the second half," Osby said. "In some games, we''re going to be down by 10 or 11 and then we''ll have to come from behind, and nobody wants to play from behind."
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