Bulldogs win sixth basketball game in row
MSU's Arnett Moultrie (23) makes a play during Sunday's basketball game against North Texas. (Photo by Lee Adams, SDN)
The 24th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs welcomed back their "bigs" and their impact matched the description.
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Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney were back on the court after nursing injuries and MSU defeated North Texas 82-59. It was the sixth-straight win for the Bulldogs.
MSU (7-1) had been without Moultrie and Sidney since returning from New York.
"It was very obvious that playing the two bigs had a little rust on us," said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. "I didn't think we were very smooth with those guys, but we played hard."
One way, Stansbury tried to knock the rust off of Sidney and Moultrie was to get them as many minutes as possible. That plan was spoiled early on for Sidney as he committed three quick fouls forcing him to only play 7 first-half minutes. However, when the second half rolled around, Sidney and Moultrie got to play more than they probably wanted.
"I played them until they couldn't play," said Stansbury. "One of them was wanting to come out of the game and we just turned our heads and let him stay in the game. We gave up some points in that stretch but he (Sidney) needed that."
Sidney finished with 20 minutes of playing time but Moultrie, who played 30 minutes, was also asking to come out at one point.
"He told me one time I ain't coming out," said Moultrie. "I had to suck it up and fight through it, but I need it to get my conditioning back."
In his 30 minutes, Moultrie posted a team-high 20 points and finished one rebound shy of a double-double.
"Arnett had some rust about him but his effort wasn't rusty at all," said Stansbury. "He just goes and gets it. He stays after practice every day and he's one of those guys who works and it's paid off for him."
With Sidney and Moultrie being out last week, Wendell Lewis got a lot of playing time, which Moultrie feels was good for him.
"It helped him a lot to play that major role," said Moultrie. "The bigs are going to dominate the paint so it helped him build his confidence."
Stansbury said it was obvious that Sidney and Moultrie had been out a week.
"We got to get back in a rhythm, we weren't very smooth tonight," said Stansbury. "We weren't very consistent when we were playing big and it was very obvious that those guys being out a week lost some things and us playing a different way last week wasn't smooth."
Sunday's win had a lot of positives for the Bulldogs, two of which was the play of Jalen Steele and Lewis.
"I thought Wendell and Jalen came off the bench, in particular the first half, and really added," said Stansbury. "That's what we need from those guys because they are going to get a lot of minutes."
Steele helped MSU extend its lead early by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and he finished the game with 11 points. Lewis finished with only eight points, but all of them came in big moments.
Another positive out of the Bulldogs big win was the play of the defense, but the offense struggled a bit in the eyes of Stansbury.
"I think with in the second half we locked in defensively," said Stansbury. "Probably wasn't as good offensively, as we missed a lot of plays around that hole, missed some free throws, but I thought we locked in defensively."
With the victory, Stansbury moved ahead of Ray Mears (Tennessee) and Roy Skinner (Vanderbilt) for the ninth in Southeastern Conference history with 279 wins.
The Bulldogs six-game winning streak have came against a mixture of tough and not so tough teams, but for the rest of the season it appears the opponents will all fall into that tough category.
"There won't be no more of those," said Stansbury. "We move on to the next one and everybody knows that next one is next Saturday night and we have one of the better teams in the country coming in, West Virginia."
With State on a roll, senior guard Dee Bost, who scored 18 points in Sunday's win,Â isn't letting himself or his teammates go into cruise control.
"I feel like it's still early, so we have to stay consistent and keep getting better," said Bost. "The best teams in the country have their up and downs and we had ours early."
The down point Bost refers to was when Bulldogs lost to Akron earlier this season, but since then they have been on a tear. That loss seems to have sparked MSU and Bost feels the loss helped.
"I'm not saying we were cocky but we needed that loss to change our focus," said Bost.Â
With the Mountaineers coming to Starkville next Saturday, MSU has another chance to show the nation what they can do with the game being broadcast on ESPNU at 8 p.m.