The hangover was in full affect for the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday as they struggled.
Even though their game may have been off, the 15th-ranked Bulldogs managed to pick up the 66-64 win over Utah State at Humphrey Coliseum.
State appeared to lack their normal intensity which was almost expected after the hard fought loss to Baylor on Wednesday.
Both teams opened the contest ice cold combining to go 0-10 early on, not scoring a basket until the 16:05 mark in the first half.
The sea-saw affair wasn't decided until Arnett Moultrie picked up his eighth double-double of the season grabbing the rebound of a missed Danny Berger 3-point attempt with 1 second remaining.
“The final 30 seconds there was some things that were good,” said State’s Head Coach Rick Stansbury. “We had some fouls to give and that helped. We switched some screens and got some things done. We went small and made them take a difficult shot.”
Dee Bost, who chipped in five points and four assists, felt the pressure defense was the difference in the closing moments.
“We just wanted to make sure we were pressuring the ball and switched screens to make sure they didn’t get a clean look, but he got one because I think we were worried too much about (Preston) Medlin,” said Bost.
State’s sluggish start is partly attributed to the emotion spent in Dallas and partly because of illness among the players and a very good Utah State team.
“Take nothing away from Utah State, they are a very good team, but, it was very obvious that we weren’t at our best tonight, from the tip,” Stansbury said. “If you put some guys not feeling great, the emotion of Baylor and you put in a good Utah State team, that’s what you get – a one possession game.”
While Bost continued to struggle finding his rhythm, he still managed to make the right play when his team needed him the most.
“He stepped up in there and made two big free throws when the game was on the line,” said Stansbury. “He wasn’t at his best, but still stepped up and made some plays when he had to.”
Bost knew it was just a play he had to make.
“I knew I had to step up and make a big play,” said Bost who passed Derrick Zimmerman as the all-time assist leader at Mississippi State. “If it is not through the whole game with my shot not falling then I know I’m going to have to make a play and that’s what I did. I just saw him leave his feet and I leaned in and got the contact.”
The Bulldogs led by as many as seven points at one point but never gained any significant separation from the Aggies, which frustrated Moultrie and company.
“They pretty much ran that double-screen play every time down the floor,” he said. “I tried to do a good job and help my guards by hedging it but I couldn’t stay there for too long and I think that’s how they were getting some penetration.”
Rodney Hood continued to draw praise from his head coach as he was the game’s leading scorer with 16 points.
“I thought Rodney Hood stepped up and was more aggressive,” Stansbury said. “He’s the one guy that seemed like nothing fazed him out there today. He could go get shots. He made shots.”
Renardo Sidney continued to improve adding 13 points and seven rebounds but it was the play of a freshman that Stansbury credited with being the difference in the game.
“Would we have won tonight if Deville (Smith) hadn’t given us seven points off the bench?” Stansbury asked. “Probably not so it is different pieces and different times giving us different things.”
At the end of the day, a win is a win and Stansbury knows you’ve got to win these types of games when they present themselves.
“Through a 30-game schedule you’re going to have some games like this,” Stansbury said said. “You know, we had one against Akron and that one didn’t turn out so fortunate. We’ve had some other ones like the tough game at Detroit, we found a way.”
The Bulldogs will be back in action next Saturday as they open Southeastern Conference play in Fayetteville, Ark. against the Razorbacks.