Bob Huggins' timeout could not even wait for the media timeout to slow down the Mississippi State offense.
The Bulldogs went on a 10-4 run to open up the game before Huggins’ timeout as 3-pointers by senior Dee Bost, freshman Rodney Hood and junior Arnett Moultrie set the pace early on for MSU in a 75-62 win over West Virginia.
The winning streak for the Bulldogs was extended seven games and helped maintain the Bulldogs’ top 25 ranking.
It was the Mountaineers’ first visit to Humphrey Coliseum, and the team’s road woes were evident throughout the game.
Sophomore Jalen Steele got his first start of the season, replacing senior Brian Bryant, who sat out the game due to a violation of athletic department rules.
With Steele getting the start, freshman Deville Smith saw extra action off the bench and made the most of it. He had an electrifying dunk soon after he entered the game to spark the Bulldogs.
But the real story of the game was the continued dominance of Moultrie. The UTEP transfer finished with a game-high 21 points and improved his SEC-leading rebounding numbers with 13 for the night.
MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said Moultrie went to work on the inside and is continuing to get better and better.
“The one thing about Moultrie is he’s consistent,” Stansbury said. “He’s very coachable, has great focus and brings his work helmet every day to practice. He never takes a day off, and that’s why he keeps getting better.”
The first half of the game was continually interrupted with whistles, which both hurt and helped the Bulldogs. The Mountaineers preseason all-Big East First Team selection Kevin Jones was plagued with three fouls in the first, but Renardo Sidney and Wendell Lewis also saw limited minutes with two fouls each.
Scoring was evenly spread out for the Dogs in the first half. Bost led all scorers with eight while Moultrie, who had nine rebounds in the half, and Hood added seven each.
On the other side of the ball, West Virginia’s big name players such as Jones and Darryl Bryant were held to a combined 10 points in the half.
State was held scoreless for the first few minutes of the second half, and West Virginia took its first lead of the game on a free throw by Deniz Kilici less than 3 minutes into the half.
A 3-pointer by Steele put the Dogs back on top, but the Mountaineers did not go away quietly. It was a back and forth game until the MSU big men started taking over the game.
The Mountaineers had no answer for Moultrie in the second half. He scored 14 points on 5-5 shooting and 4-4 from the free throw line. Moultrie said he was simply focused on winning the ball game.
“I wanted to match their intensity and be aggressive,” Moultrie said. “My quickness, athleticism and length help me out when they are a little bit stronger than I am.”
Moultrie, Sidney and Lewis dominated the paint late in the second, and a steal and slam by Bost gave State a comfortable lead at 60-54.
Bost said he felt this gave State the momentum heading into the final stretch of the game.
“It gave us a nice spark and a nice boost, but we just had to defend,” Bost said. “The crowd got into it and threw them off, and we kept getting stops after that.”
West Virginia hung around a little bit longer until MSU began to work the clock. A put-back by Moultrie and 3-pointer by Steele gave the Dogs a 10-point lead, which held up for the final 2 1/2 minutes.
That was when the “S-E-C” chants began from inside the Hump as West Virginia was the first Big East team to play in Starkville, falling in the Big East-SEC Challenge. Fans had been electric all night, loving the hustle and effort they saw from the Dogs.
Bost finished his impressive stat line with 17 points, seven assists, five blocks and only one turnover on the night.
This win, in addition to MSU’s victories over ranked opponents Arizona and Texas A&M, are great resume builders for the Bulldogs before SEC play has even begun, and Stansbury said it was a great effort in a huge win for his team.
“It’s not the end of the season, and it just counts as one win,” Stansbury said. “But some games in the schedule get magnified, and everyone knew it was a big game. It was one win but a big win.”