By JAMES CARSKADON
For Starkville Daily News
The second exhibition game for Mississippi State Friday night played out a lot like the first one.
After a slow start against defending NAIA champion Pikeville, MSU took control in the second half and cruised to a 94-70 victory.
With the exhibition slate wrapped up, the Bulldogs will now turn their attention the season opener against Eastern Kentucky on Monday night.
MSU head coach Rick Stansbury lauded the team’s slow start, but was pleased with the play of freshman guard Rodney Hood, who along with Jalen Steele led MSU with 17 points.
“There’s a lot of areas we have to get better at,” Stansbury said. “We don’t consistently fight that paint like we have to. I think we had some different guys jump and score for us. Jalen and Rodney didn’t score well in the last game, and tonight they both led us in scoring.”
MSU will be preparing for Monday’s game without freshman point guard DeVille Smith, who Stansbury said was checked into a Jackson-area hospital on Thursday after having continuing problems with dizziness and headaches. Doctors are still running tests on Smith, but have not yet determined the cause of his symptoms.
Senior guard Brian Bryant said he is hoping for the best for Smith and does not want him to rush back into action.
“We don’t want him to rush back and not be well,” Bryant said. “We want him to take time and recover. We want him to be 100 percent when he comes back.”
Playing a zone defense that challenged MSU, Pikeville was able to find itself within one point of the Bulldogs early in the second half, but from there MSU went on a 27-9 run.
The run was powered by Hood and Steele, as well as Bryant, who finished the game with 12 points. Through MSU’s exhibition slate, Bryant is the team’s leader in points per game at 16.5.
Steele’s points all came off the bench, something the sophomore said he was comfortable with.
“Everything still feels good,” Steele said. “Coming off the bench I know what I have to do, do little things to help the team out.”
Junior forward Arnett Moultrie, a transfer from UTEP, put up another double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
If you ask senior point guard Dee Bost, this will not be the last time MSU fans can expect to see that this season.
“You can get used to it, because he’s a walking double-double,” Bost said. “He said he wants to lead the country in rebounds, and that’s his goal.”
Moultrie was one of the main reasons MSU was able to score 50 points in the paint on Friday night. Renardo Sidney, while only playing 17 minutes, was able to score 12 points.
While Hood’s offensive numbers will fill up a stat sheet, Stansbury said he also received a valuable defensive lesson having to cover Pikeville’s Trevor Setty, a talented ball player. Setty led Pikeville with 18 points.
“He got a little education defensively too,” Stansbury said. “He played against a very heady player, and that’s good for him.”
After an off-season filled with high expectations around the program, Stansbury’s 14th season as head coach is now days away.
For Bryant, he’s expecting big things in his final year at MSU.
“We got big goals for this season,” Bryant said. “We want to go in and have a big year. It’s mine and Dee’s final year of college basketball, and we just want to have a good run.”