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By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State being without Arnett Moultrie was noticeable from the start.
Moultrie, who is leading the Southeastern Conference in rebounding, was out due to tendinitis in his knee, but the 17th-ranked Bulldogs were able to pick up their ninth consecutive victory with a 75-68 win over Florida Atlantic.
"Arnett was a decision to play if we needed him and we sure needed him, but it got so late, I wasn't going to do it," said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury.
With Moultrie, who has picked up five double-doubles this season, out, the Bulldogs (10-1) were down to only a certain group of guys who had played this season, but with some of them not executing it seemed like less.
"We were basically down to six guys who've played," said Stansbury. "Sidney picks up two fouls first half, so we were down to five and Deville wasn't very good tonight, so then we were down to four. That's kind of the way it was."
Two players who stepped up to make sure MSU didn't fall to the Owls (4-6) for the second year in a row were senior guard Dee Bost and freshman guard Rodney Hood.Â
"They took over," said Stansbury. "Those two guys weren't going to lose. Rodney went and made some plays and got some offensive rebounds and put backs. Dee made a couple of huge tough shots."
Hood picked up the slack on the boards by grabbing 10 rebounds, and he also picked up 19 points for his first career double-double. Bost started slow and missed his first five 3-point opportunities, but came on late to finish with a team high 22 points.
Even though, MSU jumped out to an early lead that was as big as 13 at one point, but the Owls began to make a game of it when they hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer before halftime.
The 3-pointer was viewed as a mistake by MSU, and those mistakes came because of players getting long periods of time on the court.
"We had the lead in the first half, then gave up a bad 3-pointer right before half that was a mistake," said Stansbury. "Some of the mistakes where made out of exhaustion, Hood played 40 minutes, Wendell (Lewis), Dee and Jalen (Steele) played 38 minutes. Defensively we were absolutely exhausted."
The exhaustion almost got the best of the Bulldogs when Raymond Taylor hit a 3-pointer with 6:51 remaining to give the Owls a two-point lead. However, Bost answered with a 3-pointer of his own for the final lead change.
MSU struggled at times but the found a way to fight through exhaustion to pick up the win and improve on their record which is best in the SEC. However, Stansbury felt the outcome could have been different.
"We had the lead, lost the lead but found a way to win it," said Stansbury. "I'm proud of them considering how we had to go do it, but that's one of those games that could have easily slipped away."
Southeastern Conference leading Mississippi State is set to announce five additions to the basketball roster.
The additions with the early basketball signing period includes Craig Sword (guard, 6-3, 170 pounds, Montgomery, Ala.), Frederick Thomas (guard, 6-5, 180 pounds, Jackson), Gavin Ware (center, 6-8, 247 pounds, Starkville), Josh Gray (point guard, 6-1, 170 pounds, Houston, Tx.), P.J. Hardwick (guard, 5-9, 170 pounds, Miami, Fla.).