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MSU starts year well, finishes on down note

March 14, 2012

MSU's Brian Bryant, left, and Dee Bost try to chase down a loose basketball against Massachusetts Tuesday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

Mississippi State was in good position to make the NCAA tournament in early January and ranked in the top 15.

Midway through March, the season is over after a first-round National Invitation Tournament loss to the University of Massachusetts 101-96 in double overtime, at home nonetheless.

"There is going to be some let down going into this game and we had some of it early," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said.

The Bulldogs opened the season winning 13-out-of-15 games, but a January 7 98-88 drumming by Arkansas set the tone for the rest of the season.

MSU won its next six out of eight games, but a 70-68 disappointing overtime loss to Georgia at home, led to a downward spiral for the Bulldogs.

"One thing we weren't able to do, and it was my responsibility, I never could get this team to consistently defend," Stansbury said. "You have to do it every night. That wasn't as consistent as it has to be for us."
That Georgia loss led to a five-game losing streak. The Bulldogs bounced back with a tough 69-67 overtime win at South Carolina, and avenged an earlier loss to Arkansas with a 79-59 victory on senior day.

Character for MSU was a concern.

Freshman Rodney Hood saw a lack of character from the Bulldogs before the season started.

"It was a piece," Hood said. "It didn't start in November, it stated during the summer. We just have to go back and correct it."

MSU earned the sixth seed in the SEC Tournament and faced none other than Georgia.

Georgia followed the same script from earlier and sent the Bulldogs of the Magnolia State packing back to Starkville with a 71-61 victory in the New Orleans Arena.

On Selection Sunday, there was not much hope for an NCAA bid for the Bulldogs. They ended up earning a No. 4 seed in the NIT.

"Naturally things didn't go well for us like we wanted them to go," Stansbury said.

For Dee Bost and Brian Bryant, it was their last year to wear the Mississippi State uniform.

"Two seniors," Stansbury said. "Tough way to go out."

Motivation for Tuesday night's game may have been hard to find for the Bulldogs. The let down of Selection Sunday was seen by Bost.

"When we heard we weren't in the NCAA we were down and nobody wanted to play," Bost said.

After the game, Bost gave his teammates some words of wisdom, maybe to inspire them not to repeat this year over.

"I told them to get ready for another year," Bost said. "It's going to come fast."

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