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By MATTHEW STEVENS
Not that Mississippi State is complaining about wins, but they might be hoping todayâ€™s contest will be brought more under more control than the first three this season.
A day after the holiday where people stuff their faces with food, the Bulldogs (3-0) would like to see a cupcake or two as they play through a non-conference stretch without Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney.
â€śWe still have a lot of areas of improvement, but weâ€™re getting better each game,â€ť MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said after an 82-76 win over Detroit Monday.
The Bulldogs are aware theyâ€™ll be unable to have Bost after he was ruled academically ineligible until January and suspended for nine games once he gets eligible for missing the NBA Draft deadline.
State will also be missing Sidney after the former McDonaldâ€™s All-American is being forced to sit out nine games of this upcoming season due to impermissible benefits received prior to signing and arriving on the Mississippi State campus.
Without the two stars in the lineup, State has now had 22 of its last 26 games, dating back to last year, decided by less than a double-figure margin.
The good news for MSU is they welcome a Troy University squad into Humphrey Coliseum (7 p.m. tipoff) that hasnâ€™t earned a Division 1 victory during the first month of the 2010-11 season and has had serious troubles shooting the basketball.
After suffering an 80-70 loss to Georgia State this week, the Trojans (1-3) shot just 39.6 percent (21-of-53) from the field and compounded the problem by making only 19-of-37 attempts from the charity stripe.
â€śI don't know if we have ever shot worse than that,â€ť Troy head coach Don Maestri said. â€śWe played hard, but kept missing shot after shot and free throw after free throw. We just didn't play well enough to win.â€ť
One of the guys MSU hopes to count on to make shots is senior guard Riley Benock after the 6-foot-4 long-range shooter scored a career-high 13 points in Mondayâ€™s win over Detroit.
â€śThis year, Iâ€™m trying to be more aggressive in general,â€ť said Benock, who has started all three games and is averaging 8.3 points. â€śWe know two guys canâ€™t win a game every night."
Those two guys are senior duo of Ravern Johnson and Kodi Augustus. Johnson leads the SEC with his 25.3 scoring clip, while Augustus is second in the league on the boards (11 rebounds per game) and tied for eighth in scoring (16.7 points per game).
The Bulldogs are seeking their first 4-0 start since 2008-09 and the fifth during Stansburyâ€™s 13 years roaming the sidelines, but havenâ€™t opened the season with four-straight games decided by 10 points or less since the 1942-43 campaign.
After today, MSU return to action Tuesday at home against Florida Atlantic, who is led by former George Washington and St. Johnâ€™s coach Mark Jarvis. It's the first meeting between the two schools.