ATHENS, Geo. — Mississippi State State’s coaches and players have proclaimed this current version as a third “new team.”
However, the MSU basketball version 3.0 with both point guard Dee Bost and forward Renardo Sidney simply handled being on the road against a quality opponents the same way as the past two months.
Mississippi State again struggled away from Starkville to keep the contest close in its 86-64 loss at Georgia.
In what was an important recruiting weekend in Athens, Georgia’s football program got more of the attention in the second half as the fans clad in red were able to pay attention early to the gridiron recruits in the stands over the blowout that was occurring on the basketball floor Saturday afternoon.
Mississippi State (10-8, 2-2) has now been down by at least 20 points in each of its losses to teams ranked in the top 75 of the Ratings Percentage Index.
“They whipped us in that zone in every way they can whip us,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We didn’t compete with the consistency you got to have on the road in this league.”
In a game where State was hoping to showcase the argument that with all their pieces intact they could be a quality team, Stansbury was left shaking his head afterwards and asking the question on the minds of everybody in the visiting locker room.
“We didn’t measure up very good today did we?” Stansbury asked in the postgame to the media. “We didn’t play nearly our best.”
Georgia (14-4, 3-2 in SEC play) consistently scored over State’s seemingly helpless 2-3 zone defense and when it did miss, the home team out-rebounded MSU 17-2 on the offensive glass to get extra possessions.
“That’s embarrassing to get out-rebounded by that much,” Bost said. “It’s up to the guards to get down in there and fight for boards too.”
UGA shot an impressive 11-for-19 from beyond the three-point arc with six different players connecting on a shot from long range.
Georgia began the game making 8-for-11 from the field over State’s zone but had offensive rebounds on its three misses leading to second-chance points.
“I think we’ve been pretty effective against zones,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “We almost kind of like to see it, to be honest with you.”
Georgia had a stretch in the second half where they connected on three-point field goals on three-straight possessions. That streak was broken when Kodi Augustus fired a turnover straight into the hands of UGA guard Gerald Robinson ending with a dunk from Trey Thompkins to make it 81-60 with 3:39 left in the game.
“If we’re not known for shooting three’s, then hey we’ll take that,” Thompkins said. “We stick with what we do every day and we are confident in our system.”
Thompkins, the SEC’s preseason player of the year, ended the afternoon with 15 points and seven rebounds. However, Georgia’s star big man had help from his friends with double-figure efforts from starters Robinson, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price.
Robinson, a transfer from Tennessee State, and Leslie both accounted for 17 points and shot a combined 54 percent from the field despite making only a combined two shots beyond the three-point arc.
“Just because we see a zone doesn’t mean we have to sit back and shoot,” Robinson said. “But if it’s a good shot then we can take it. Everyone has the green light to take good shots.”
Bost led the MSU scoring effort with 20 points in his fourth game back from suspension and had five assists along with just one turnover in 35 minutes.
“We came out flat but give them credit because they knocked down a lot of shots and a lot of three’s,” Bost said. “I think we proved today we can play more man in games and now it’s on us to do it.”
Sidney was one rebound shy of his first career double-double (15 points and nine rebounds) in a MSU uniform before fouling out with 3:10 left in the contest. However his head coach wasn’t impressed with the effort of the 6-foot-10 McDonald’s All-American suggesting most of his buckets and aggressiveness came in garbage time while one of the best frontcourts in the Southeastern Conference was on the bench.
“He wasn’t very effective at all,” Stansbury said. “He didn’t work in that post the way he has to work. He was no factor on that block.”
For the fourth straight game, Sidney was not made available to the media due to a coach's decision.
State senior guard Ravern Johnson also registered 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting from the field but beyond MSU’s big-three scoring punch, their complimentary parts added just 65 points of scoring punch
throughout the day.
“I don’t feel like anybody competed tonight outside of Dee Bost,” Stansbury said.
The MSU players still maintain they can turn the 2010-11 season around with 12 games left even after a fourth deflating blowout loss to a team with NCAA Tournament at-large possibilities. Mississippi State will get a pair of games next week at Humphrey Coliseum against SEC East contenders when Vanderbilt and Florida travel to Starkville.