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By LEE ADAMS
The Mississippi State Bulldogs can make a big move in the men's basketball polls as they head into the holiday season.
In order to do that, No. 17 Mississippi State needs to extend its seven-game winning streak. Standing in the way today is Troy at Humphrey Coliseum.
The tip for the SportsSouth telecast is set for 3:06 p.m., and tickets can be purchased at a special price of $5.
The Bulldogs (8-1) have been on a tear since loosing to Akron, but Troy (4-3) present s a challenge unlike the other teams they've faced.
The Trojans are a relatively small team, but that doesn't mean they are incapable of defeating much bigger MSU.
"They are a very dangerous team," said Bulldogs head coach Rick Stansbury. "They lead the country in 3-pointers made per game over 12 games. Anytime you shoot the ball like that you're a dangerous basketball team and shooting has nothing to do with size."
Troy also presents a rebounding challenge even though MSU's Arnett Moultrie is leading the Southeastern Conference in that category.
"A lot of 3's means a lot of long rebounds," said Stansbury. "A lot of long rebounds kick out of that paint and because you're smaller and quicker you have an advantage. That's how they negate size. They shoot 3's and get the long rebounds."
The Trojans different style of play could make the Bulldogs change their lineup around, but Stansbury doesn't seem too worried about that as he feels they are versatile this year.Â
"Different lineups can do different things," said Stansbury. "Even one of my bigs is a versatile guy, you know Arnett's a guy that can step out and guard a 6-foot-3 guy, so we have enough versatility at some spots."
With Moultrie being the standout player underneath so far this year, it has seemed to make things easier on Renardo Sidney, and Stansbury likes that he has options under the basket.
"Last year he (Sidney) was basically the only center we had, so when he went out, it kind of changed the flow of our team a bunch," said Stansbury. "This year when he goes out, we can keep playing and keep playing big, so I don't think he feels the pressure of having to be the only guy on the inside like he did last year."
With Moultrie, who is third in the SEC in field goal percentage and fourth in scoring, being a force underneath Sidney has seemed to fall more into the role player category.
"We need him to be more than that (role player) for our team to be as good as it can be,"said Stansbury. "I want him to be as productive as he can be in the minutes that he plays."
When Sidney comes off the floor and Moultrie stays in, Wendell Lewis is getting some solid minutes in for the Bulldogs.
Lewis recorded a double-double against UT Martin earlier this season, but Stansbury still feels the junior forward needs to continue to improve, but feels he is better than he was.
"I still wish Wendell would get a little gunpowder in his craw," said Stansbury. "Thatâ€™s what would take him to another level. Does he have more than he used to have? He does. Does he play harder than he used to? He does. Is there another level of approval there? There is."
Offensively, State seems to have a handle on what they are trying to accomplish, but defensively there is still some work to do.
"It's OK, but it's got a lot of room for improvement," said Stansbury. "We've still got to get a lot better at controlling that basketball, keep them out of that paint. There's too many of those. We've had three or four every game where somebody drives that ball from 30 feet and gets it to the rim. You've got to eliminate those kinds of plays."
While the Bulldogs are trying to get their defense where they want it, they will also have to make sure they don't let the Trojans sneak up on them, like Dayton did on Alabama earlier this week.
"You just hope you're mature enough to understand everyday what's at hand," said Stansbury. "It's human nature that some games are magnified more than others in kid's minds. We preach they all count as one win and one loss. There's no two wins. They're all the same. The team who can best prepare and stay the most consistent through 30 games or whatever it is are the teams that will be successful. It isn't always easy to do."