January 20, 2011 7:55:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- For all the confidence derived from Mississippi State men''s basketball team''s two-game winning streak, coach Rick Stansbury insists players and coaches are realistic about the state of the team.
For two weeks, Stansbury has used sayings like "work in progress" and "it''s a process" to describe his team. He''s said his players will need to "learn on the fly" in league play while they adjust to having all of the parts in place.
Stansbury sang the same tune Wednesday at his weekly press conference, only this time he did so following a week of success.
The Bulldogs (10-7, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) earned a road win at the University of Mississippi on Thursday and beat Auburn on Sunday at home, and saw Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost play well. Bost earned his first SEC Player of the Week honor three games into his suspension-shortened season.
But with depth a lingering issue and Bost and Sidney still working toward 100 percent fitness, Bost pumped the breaks on declaring the Bulldogs contenders.
"It''s still a work in progress," Bost said. "It''s too early to say we''re back. Not taking anything away from Ole Miss and Auburn, but Auburn is one of the bottom teams in the SEC. Those are games we must have."
Stansbury, however, isn''t discrediting the positive effects from beating Ole Miss -- now 0-4 in league play -- and Auburn. He lauded his team''s effort in practice since the spring semester started, and was pleased to see an intense Saturday practice carry over into the Auburn game. Doing so following the galvanizing win at Ole Miss impressed him, too.
"We handled that high pretty well in Oxford," Stansbury said. "When you have some success it''s much easier to get some things done. But we''re still trying to put it all together."
MSU entered its first two league games as underdogs, and struggled in the second-half of its home loss to Alabama. Already adamant about distancing themselves from the ill-fated holiday road trip, players and coaches have embraced their underdog status.
Stansbury doesn''t need any help reminding his players.
"Do we use that as motivation?" Stansbury asked. "Kids know the situation. That''s not something I consistently throw in their face. I think it''s very obvious, when we went to Oxford no one gave us a chance. You don''t have to see that to no where you''re at."
MSU has had the luxury of extra practice this week to prepare for a week-long stretch of three games, which begins Saturday at Georgia (13-4, 2-2).
Georgia owns wins against Kentucky and Ole Miss, and has lost close losses to Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
As part of a deep SEC East, Georgia enters the game with experience and appears to be in midseason form that Stansbury would relish if he''d had Bost and Sidney available from the start of the season.
Georgia also sits 145 RPI points better at 46, according to RealTimeRPI.com. Florida and Vanderbilt entered Wednesday with RPIs of 17 and 23, respectively. The Ratings Percentage Index is one of the factors the NCAA tournament selection committee uses to pick the at-large teams for the postseason.
"We need those three wins," Bost said. "It''s three quality wins we must have because of the strength of our schedule."
MSU to honor Babe McCarthy
The architect of MSU''s most dominant stretch of basketball will be honored at Humphrey Coliseum.
Former coach Babe McCarthy, who led MSU to SEC titles in 1959 and 1961-63, will be honored with a banner that will be raised Feb. 19, when MSU plays host to Ole Miss.
Athletic director Scott Stricklin announced the decision Wednesday in his weekly blog.
McCarthy, who passed away in 1975, went 169-85 in his 10 years in Starkville (1955-65).
His banner will be hung next to that of Bailey Howell, who played for McCarthy.
McCarthy is part of an historical civil rights moment as coach of the 1963 team that sneaked out of Starkville to face Loyola -- which started four black players -- in the NCAA tournament.
MSU had turned down its three previous automatic bids to the NCAA tournament because of the possibility of playing integrated teams.
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