Smith Column: Bulldogs find way to get tough victory
Danny P. Smith
Excuses? There could have been.
An early tip? Too much Thanksgiving turkey? Lack of attendance or student support?
All of those things could have been reasons for a poor performance for the Mississippi State
Bulldogs Friday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
It took a career high 33 points from Ravern Johnson for the Bulldogs to pull out another close
victory, beating Troy University 92-83 in overtime. It was the 100th overtime decision in school history.
All four of MSU's games this season have been decided by 10 points or less. The last time this happened was during the 1942-43 season.
For the time being, it looks like this group of Bulldogs have a knack of finding ways to win.
It doesn't always look pretty, but they get the job done.
"I thought State showed poise in overtime and when they got down by 11," Troy coach Don Maestri said. "They made some key free throws down the stretch."
Johnson and Riley Benock shot MSU back into the game in the latter stages of the second half, then Jalen Steele and Brian Bryant made some key plays in overtime to make the difference.
In the first half, the Bulldogs dug themselves a huge hole mainly because of a lack of defense and rebounding. There were many times when Troy center Bernard Toombs and company got easy putbacks. That's something that normally doesn't happen to a Rick Stansbury-coached basketball team.
"We were just not ready to guard defensively," Stansbury said. "There is no margin for error with this team."
That latter statement was one Stansbury used at least three times during his postgame press conference.
He probably said it a few more times in a more emphatic way in the locker room.
"We kind of came out a little sluggish," Johnson said. "We've got to keep from doing that and keep getting better."
As Maestri exited the postgame interview area, he offered his opinion that MSU seemed to be the best team talent-wise in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.
Maestri likes the Bulldogs pieces and said they should really be good once Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney come off suspensions.
It's not long before Sidney gets to play (Dec. 18) and will be a nice early Christmas present for Stansbury and his coaching staff. Bost gets to start playing on Jan. 8.
Sidney will provide some much needed inside depth, while Bost gives MSU experience at the point guard position.
The Bulldogs are showing the fight that it takes to escape against mediocre non-conference competition, but they'll have to take it to the next level when conference play starts in January.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.
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