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SMITH COLUMN: MSU gives fans a reason to like the end of 2011

January 1, 2012

Mississippi State sports fans shouldn't have any complaints about the way 2011 ended.
In the final two days to close the year, the Bulldogs were able to win in football, men's basketball and women's basketball.
After losing a 54-52 decision to Baylor Wednesday night, Mississippi State bounced back to take a hard-earned 66-64 men's hoops victory against Utah State on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.
The visiting Aggies brought an 8-5 record to Starkville, but played much better than that mark indicated.
It was a tough day for the Bulldogs as Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie were battling sinus problems and Wendell Lewis was suffering from a headache.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury wasn't expecting his players to have such a hard time physically, but warned all week that Utah State was going to be a difficult test.
It was a credit to the Bulldogs to come back from a nine-point victory to find a way to beat the Aggies.
Stansbury had a sigh of relief afterwards.
"We understood how good Utah State is," Stansbury said. "This was a good game to win, knowing where this game fell, it was a really difficult challenge."
There are certain games in the non-conference slate that are harder matchups than others.
The 68-58 loss MSU had to Akron in the second game of the year was probably the most disappointing one this season. The Bulldogs played hard in the two-point loss to Baylor which was basically a home game for the Bears. MSU picked up some good victories along the way against West Virginia, Detroit and now Utah State.
Now the Bulldogs turn their attention to Southeastern Conference play with a road trip set for Arkansas on Saturday.
"This is a new season," Stansbury said. "It's now a 16-game season."
The Lady Bulldogs also rebounded from a first-round 78-71 loss at the Peppermill Classic against Oklahoma State to defeat Nevada 67-63 on Friday.
MSU finished the non-conference part of the schedule with an overall record of 10-3 and that's probably about where coach Sharon Fanning-Otis expected it to be.
Now comes the rugged SEC schedule so the Lady Bulldogs have to buckle down for Thursday's home encounter with LSU.
Even though a 7-6 record was not what MSU was anticipating at the beginning of the football season, it turned out to be a sweet ending with the 23-17 win against Wake Forest at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday night.
Now like in basketball, the Bulldogs turn the page in football and look to bigger things next season.
Tyler Russell should go into spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback for MSU, but expect Dak Prescott to give him some interesting battles moving forward.
Over the next few days, we will find out if Fletcher Cox and/or Johnthan Banks declares for the National Football League draft.
The Bulldogs will take a big hit defensively if both decide to depart the program.
With recruiting, spring practice, summer workouts and the regular season, football has become a subject that can be addressed 365 days a year.
Here's to starting 2012 off right.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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