Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury is quick to tell anyone who will listen that there are no easy nights in the Southeastern Conference.
State’s coach couldn’t have been more right on Wednesday night as the Bulldogs held off a late barrage of Tiger 3-pointers to win 76-71.
The Bulldogs (17-4 overall, 4-2 SEC) were up by 10 points late in the contest when Andre Stringer made his only two three’s of the evening to give the Tigers (12-8, 2-4) a fighting chance. Anthony Hickey joined in the fun with a couple long-range bombs of his own and the Bulldogs were left with a fight on their hands and wondering should they foul the hot-shooting Tigers.
“The shots they hit, we weren’t thinking about fouling them,” said Stansbury. “Now, with 12 seconds left and up by three we were prepared to foul. When we got it over half court, we were going to foul there.”
Fouls wouldn’t be necessary when Arnett Moultrie was the recipient of a pass off a Dee Bost steal, leading to Moultrie being sent to the foul line to shoot two, plus a pair of free throws stemming from a Trent Johnson technical foul.
The Bulldog forward picked up his 28th point of the evening and sealed the MSU victory.
“We made the plays when we had to make the plays,” said Stansbury. “I didn’t think we had our edge tonight and that’s what this league is about. You’re not going to have your edge every night, but you’ve got to find a way to survive when you’re not at your best.”
While the Bulldogs may not have been at their collective best, parts of the team were exceptional.
Moultrie picked up his 12th double-double of the season with 28 points and 12 rebounds. He was simply a dominating force for the Bulldogs. He put the game on his shoulders in the second half scoring 19 points when MSU needed him the most.
Coming off what Stansbury said was his best game of the season, Bost may have been better against the Tigers.
The senior guard neared a triple-double with nine points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists.
“I really wasn’t trying to look to score, I was trying to get my assists up,” said Bost who already holds the schools all-time assist mark. “Coach told me to try to get 10 assists and so that’s what I did.”
Jalen Steele also continued ‘feeling it’ Wednesday night for the Bulldogs. The young sophomore was the second-leading scorer for MSU with 15 points, three of which were 3-point baskets.
Freshman Rodney Hood also had a key contribution to the game as he buried two free throws to keep the State lead at three with under a minute to play.
“He stepped to the free-throw line there late in the game and made a couple of shots,” said Stansbury of Hood, who had 13 points and five rebounds. “That’s the kind of poise he’s got.”
The Tigers made shots late, shooting 52.4 percent from 3-point range, but they simply didn’t get a second chance. The Tigers managed just six second chance points due to being out rebounded 46-26.
“That’s the stat that saved us,” said Stansbury.
“I just think my athleticism and quickness bothered them,” he said. “They had me boxed out but with my quickness, they couldn’t seal me off and I got to those loose balls.”
For the game, the Tigers were led in scoring by Stringer with 17, Hickey 16, and Justin Hamilton with 11.
Mississippi State will return to the road on Saturday to face the No. 14 Florida Gators on the SEC Network.