The Mississippi State Bulldogs traveled to the Tad Smith Coliseum on Wednesday night carrying a 15–3 record and a No. 18 ranking.
However, they left with a 75-68 loss at the hands of scrappy Ole Miss ballclub who received a career night from Reginald Buckner.
The Rebels (12-6, 2-2) jumped out to an early lead in the contest leading by as many as nine in the first half. The Bulldogs (15-4, 2-2) simply couldn’t get over the hump at that point.
“They started out well early in the game and we fought from behind all night long, never got over the hump,” said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury.
State would battle back and take a one-point lead at 18-17. From that point, the two teams traded baskets over the next couple of possessions before the Rebels took the lead for good.
“I thought (Buckner) was tremendous tonight,” said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. “(Holloway) got those two early fouls and Reggie was out there on his own tonight. He really had to keep us a float early. This was by far Reggie’s best game of the season when we needed it the most.”
Buckner managed a career night with 19 points despite missing seven shots from the free-throw line. He also had a game-high 15 rebounds for the Rebels.
“Buckner was probably the difference in the game,” said Stansbury. “Buckner, they got more from him than I’m sure they anticipated.”
The Bulldogs received a big night from Renardo Sidney who neared a double-double with a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds.
Dee Bost and Rodney Hood added 15 and 13 points respectively while Arnett Moultrie was rather subdued despite picking up his 10th double-double of the season with 12 rebounds and just 10 points.
“We had a lot of opportunities in that second half,” said Stansbury. “It seems like it was a three- or four-point game and we had four of five empty possessions in a row and when you’re on the road and fighting for your life, it is very difficult.”
For the evening, State shot just 37.7 percent from the floor, going 10-of-29 from the 3-point line, something Stansbury didn’t like, particularly late.
“Well they played a lot of zone. That’s a bunch of shots and some of them came in transition when we were fighting back,” Stansbury said of his team, which went 0-for-6 down the stretch after scratching to within three at 2:19 mark. “We’ve got to have some possessions there, we let a couple get away right there in transition for sure.”
The Bulldogs will be back in action on Saturday when they travel to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores in a contest scheduled for a 6 p.m. opening tip.