By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State sophomore forward Renardo Sidney has proclaimed his belief that nobody can stop him in the post. Logic would mean that proclamation would also include the preseason Southeastern Conference player of the year in Georgia’s Trey Thompkins.
Sidney will have arguably his toughest task of his young season today when MSU embarks on a trip to play Georgia (3 p.m., SEC Network) and one of the best frontcourt lineups not only in the league but the entire country.
The Bulldogs (10-7, 2-1 in SEC play) are beginning a three-game stretch against Eastern Division teams (at Georgia, vs. Vanderbilt and vs. Florida) that will not only give the MSU squad a quick indication as to where they stand among the power elite of the conference but a sweep could revive any NCAA Tournament at-large berth hopes left for the 2010-11 season.
“If it gets any tougher, I don’t know where that would be or who you would be playing,” Stansbury said. “We’re going to face, maybe, the three best teams in the East.”
Georgia (13-4, 2-2) came in ranked in the preseason thanks to the physical play of their interior led by the 6-foot-9 Thompkins, who is being projected as an lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
“Whether we guard him with (Renardo) Sidney or not, we'll see about that,” Stansbury said. “Most people they'll make you guard him with a four guy, because you've got another big guy beside him. That duty could fall to Kodi Augustus.”
Last year Georgia blew an 11-point halftime lead at Humphrey Coliseum to drop a 72-69 decision to Mississippi State even after dominating the post to the tune of 56 points in the paint and Thompkins’ game-high 18 points against at that time one of the most intimidating defensive presences in the country in Jarvis Varnado.
In this contest, Georgia is coming off a crushing 59-57 home loss to Tennessee after Volunteers center Brian Williams came up with a rebound on a desperation three-pointer and put up the follow as time expired.
After officials consulted, Georgia was handed its first loss in Athens during the 2010-11 season.
"That was a difficult loss," said Georgia head coach Mark Fox. "Tennessee made more plays than we did. They made one more, for sure. There are going to be a lot of battles in this league. We just didn't make enough plays tonight, plain and simple."
MSU hasn’t won back-to-back games at Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum since winning three straight from 1973-75.
“They are one of the best teams we’ve faced so far,” Stansbury said. “They’ll have the crowd on their side, and they are going to be looking to get back in the win column.”
Bost is averaging 16 points and seven assists but his coach feels it crucial to allow him to sit next to him during parts of the game more in order to establish quality depth at the point guard position.
Last season Bost was one of the league leaders by averaging nearly 35 minutes per game. While he tries to get his playing rhythm back after missing the first 14 games of the 2010-11 regular season, playing that many minutes could limit him during a crucial three-game stretch.
“My body ain’t got no choice but to hold up,” Bost said. “Truth be told, I try to come out of the game sometimes but he doesn’t want to take me out.”
MSU has enjoyed a lot of success against the Peach State Bulldogs in recent years, winning three straight and eight of the last 10.