The Mississippi State Bulldogs turn to the road this week looking to regain the ranking they lost when the polls came out earlier on Monday.
In order to do that, MSU must bounce back strong from a disappointing 70-68 overtime loss to Georgia over the weekend.
First up for the Bulldogs, now 19-6 overall and 6-4 in the Southeastern Conference, will be coach Trent Johnson and the LSU Tigers (14-10, 4-6) who picked up a 67-58 win over Alabama last Saturday.
"If you went on the road and the team you played wasn't very good, the crowd wouldn't be a factor," said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury who is just 1-3 on the road in conference play this season. "But the one constant when you go on the road, everybody's good. That's just the way it is. There's a fine line, a very, very fine line in this league, home or away."
State will without question be looking to shore up a defense that’s failed them at times, especially against UGA.
"There have been times, there's no question, our lack of depth has caused a problem late in some games, just fatigue-wise,” said Stansbury. “That's just kind of what it is with us right now. You've got to find ways to push through it, hopefully you can make those plays down the stretch."
The Bulldogs once prided themselves on playing a stingy brand of man-defense. It didn’t matter what the opposition did, MSU was going to play man-defense and that was just that. However, now the staple defense hasn’t been so stellar.
"We're playing less zone this year than we played last year,” said Stansbury. “In turn, you've got to come out and guard those ball screens, a little different personnel. That's our challenge right there. We're guarding more ball screens this year in the man defense than we guarded last year."
While Dee Bost and Arnett Moultrie continue to carry the team from an average standpoint, it has been the play of Renardo Sidney that has been the most improved.
In State’s loss to UGA, the Bulldog big man picked up his first double-double of the season with a season-high 12 rebounds and 10 points. While he still has room to improve, MSU will need Sidney to continue his improved play on the road in Baton Rouge.
LSU will counter with physical style of basketball that very nearly led to a win on their previous meeting with the Bulldogs in Starkville.
A pair of Tigers are averaging in double figures in the scoring column with Justin Hamilton (13.7 points per game) and Andre Stringer (10.2). However it is the surging freshman Johnny O’Bryant the Bulldogs must keep an eye on. O’Bryant is back from injury and now fully in the flow of the Tiger gameplan averaging 8.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
The game is set for an 8 p.m. opening tip and can be seen on ESPNU.