March 8, 2009
OXFORD -- Dee-fense was important when it mattered most for Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.
Terrico White, the freshman point guard for the University of Mississippi, scored seven points in 44 seconds down the stretch to keep the Rebels in the game against the Bulldogs at Tadd-Smith Coliseum.
However, Mississippi State freshman point guard Dee Bost bothered White just enough on a half-court shot attempt as the final horn sounded and the Bulldogs escaped with an 82-80 victory to clinch the third seed out of the Western Division for the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Even though White finished as Ole Miss'' leading scorer with 21 points, Bost was satisfied with his defense while he was in the game.
Bost got two early fouls in the game that cut into his effectiveness.
"In the first half, I got in foul trouble so I couldn''t be as aggressive as I wanted to for a two or three minute stretch," Bost said. "The second half I got aggressive and kind of caused him some trouble. I''m trying to improve every game because (defense) is one of the areas I need to improve on."
Bost also picked up his offensive game in the second half.
After not scoring in the first half, Bost finished with 13 points.
"He certainly did a good job and Bost is an excellent player," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
Mississippi State (19-12, 9-7 SEC) plays Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament at 2:15 p.m. Thursday.
Coach Rick Stansbury believes it is a great accomplishment for his squad to end the regular season with nine conference victories.
"This team deserves a lot of credit," Stansbury said. "We''ve had some difficult losses that cut the heart of our team. Sometimes it''s not very easy to stay together."
Stansbury said it could have been very easy for his team to stay in the valley after losing a 76-58 decision to Auburn at home on Feb. 28.
The Bulldogs bounced back to beat Florida 80-71 and Ole Miss to finish with some momentum it didn''t have.
"It was a must-win for Florida and then you have your arch-rival which is a good basketball team you''ve got to play," Stansbury said. "I wasn''t concerned about our kids not fighting."
Mississippi State continued to fight when it trailed 63-57 with 10 minutes and 36 seconds remaining in the game after a dunk by White.
Kodi Augustus scored a basket and Romero Osby made a 3-pointer to bring the Bulldogs within 63-62 at the 9:15 mark.
After Murphy Holloway had a putback to extend the advantage to 65-62 for the Rebels, Bost had a 3-point play the hard way to tie the score 65-65 with 7:55 left to play.
Barry Stewart sank a 3-pointer at the 7-minute mark to give MSU a 68-65 lead and even though Ole Miss got back to within 81-80 on a White 3-pointer, it could never get back on top.
Ole Miss (16-14, 7-9), which could still be the fourth or fifth seed at the SEC Tournament, had five players score in double figures with Malcolm White following Terrico White with 20 points, Zach Graham added 16 points, Holloway scored 11 points and David Huertas had 10 points, all in the first half. Huertas played only 3 minutes of the second half because of his bruised foot.
"I was proud that he gave it a try, but he looked really gimpy," Kennedy said.
Stewart led the Bulldogs with 17 points and Augustus joined Bost with 13 points.
Although proud of the scoring from himself and Bost, Stewart pointed back to defense.
"Anytime your whole team protects on defense and has a defensive mentality it means a lot for you," Stewart said. "For coach Stansbury, you either get better on defense or you won''t be playing."
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