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Bulldogs open SEC with loss to Alabama

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s men''s basketball team''s "new season" began much like its dismal non-conference road swing ended: with a uninspiring loss.  

 

In the wake of two player transfers, an ugly public fight between Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey in Hawaii and four losses in five games, the Bulldogs opened league play Saturday with a 75-57 loss to Alabama -- their fifth double-digit loss since Dec. 18.  

 

The Bulldogs (8-7, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) had hoped for a boost from the return of suspended players Sidney and point guard Dee Bost, but got just two points and nine rebounds from its lead big man and 14 points and five assists from Bost, who had been idle for the previous 14 games. 

 

A two-year starter and preseason All-SEC selection, his return to the lineup was expected to have a greater impact.  

 

Bost chipped in five assists and a pair of steals, but much like the rest of his teammates he struggled to get into a rhythm.  

 

Bost played 33 minutes and made just 5 of 16 shots, struggling to find his fitness after a long layoff.  

 

"Dee Bost, and it''s not his fault at all, but it''s very obvious he was no factor," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "He had no legs. He had no shot. He had nothing. What it is is what it is with him. It''s not his fault." 

 

The hype surrounding the home debuts of both Bost and Sidney weren''t a distraction, according to Stansbury. 

 

But their lack of fitness was detrimental to the team''s second-half effort.  

 

Sidney, especially, struggled with the workload. After a stellar first-half defensive effort against Alabama big-man JaMychal Green, Sidney struggled after Green took jump shots.  

 

At the break, Green had just two of his 16 points.  

 

"Once I started to step up and knock down a couple of shots, I could tell that [Sidney] was getting fatigued getting back on defense," Green said. "He has a big body, so me banging with him I''m gonna lose that battle. So I had to turn around and face him up." 

 

Stansbury had a laundry list of bugaboos from Saturday''s loss, including a 50 percent free throw clip; no free throw attempts from either of his centers; a 3 of 16 shooting performance from leading scorer Ravern Johnson; and a lack of response after Alabama started to knock down shots in the second half.  

 

The Bulldogs shot 33.9 percent for the game and watched a one-point deficit at halftime turn into a 10-point hole by the 12-minute mark of the second half.  

 

The Bulldogs cut Alabama''s lead to 53-43 after a 3-pointer and layup from Bost, but looked out of sorts and started forcing early shots when Alabama continued to knock down shots. 

 

"As horrible as we had played, I felt like we had won the (first) half," Stansbury said. "I didn''t think we could play any worse but I found out in the second half we could." 

 

Stansbury was less than enthused with Sidney''s level of conditioning, though he played his third collegiate game Saturday. Without the suspension, he would have had five games under his belt before Saturday. 

 

Sidney scored 19 points against San Diego and 12 against Virginia Tech, but Stansbury said his season-low two points was due to his lack of conditioning.  

 

"Wish he was (in better shape), put it that way," Stansbury said when asked if he thought Sidney should be in better shape. "But he''s not, so what it is is what is." 

 

Though Bost reached his averages of 14 points and five assists, he admitted the offense was stagnant.  

 

The Bulldogs were outscored 44-24 in the paint and started the game with six jump shots in their first seven attempts.  

 

With MSU struggling to knock down perimeter shots, Bost says the onus on getting to the line and opening up looks for teammates starts with him. 

 

"I''ve got to get to the lane more and then we got to get Sid the ball more," Bost said. "Get Wendell the ball more. So we just got to look for them more, search for them more." 

 

Bost said the Bulldogs didn''t play with heart, and the leadership responsibilities fall on everyone''s shoulders.  

 

"We''ve got to come out from the get-go and play with some heart," Bost said. "Once again, from when I was watching at home we weren''t playing with heart and today we ain''t playing with heart.  

 

"Somewhere we got to find that deep down inside with our team and stop playing with it." 

 

The Bulldogs travel to Oxford Thursday to face Ole Miss.

 

 

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