Mississippi State’s winningest coach on the hardwood, Rick Stansbury, has built his winning reputation in Starkville on a coaching cliché – defending and rebounding win championships.
“It is true, defending and rebounding win championships and that’s exactly what we are trying to do here at Mississippi State,” said the Southeastern Conference’s leading rebounder Arnett Moultrie.
Now in his 14th season at the helm of the MSU program, the Bulldogs appear to be returning to true Stansbury form as defending and rebounding are noticeable traits of this year’s squad.
“There is no question it is much better than it was the past year or so,” said Stansbury, who has led the Bulldogs to an overall SEC championships, three SEC tournament titles and five SEC Western Division crowns. “We got some guys out there now that will really, really compete. Rebounding and defending...they are just toughness categories. We are definitely better in those categories. We are not as good as we need to be but we are getting better.”
In order to see the toughness, Stansbury speaks of not look any further than Moultrie.
The transfer from UTEP sat out last season honing his skills and waiting for his opportunity to help the Bulldogs.
“It was very difficult,” said Moultrie when asked about having to watch from the bench last season. “I wanted to be out there. It was a difficult thing to go through but I just spent that time working on my game and trying to get better.”
The center/forward for the Bulldogs leads the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding with 4.8 offensive rebounds per contest and 6.9 defensive rebounds respectively.
Moultrie is also averaging a double-double this season while being the only player in the SEC to average double-digit rebounds with 11.7 per game.
“When you’ve got a guy rebounding the basketball like Arnett is, well, that’s nothing but toughness,” Stansbury said. “Rebounding, that carries over into defending too.”
Moultrie isn’t getting it done alone.
The Bulldogs have a true team concept on the defensive end and that’s been a big part of their success in holding 12 of their 13 opponents to 68 points or less.
“The key is having your team buy into defending and rebounding and doing that consistently every night,” Stansbury said. “The offense isn’t always going to be there so we just have to get everyone to understand just how hard you have to play every night out.”
State’s No. 17 ranking and current winning streak may come as a surprise to some, but not the Bulldogs.
“We are doing what we expected,” stated Moultrie. “We put in a lot of hard work during the summer and even more work during the preseason. Right now, we are just starting to see the benefits of the work we put in.”
Mississippi State already holds wins over ranked foes in Texas A&M and Arizona however, next week their ability to defend and rebound will be put to the test as they face the Baylor Bears on Dec. 28 in Dallas.