Danny P. Smith
Sometimes there are plays in a game you can look to that make a difference between winning and losing.
When Riley Benock passed the basketball inside to Kodi Augustus for a dunk with 6 seconds left in the first half of Mississippi State's 67-58 victory over the Nicholls State Colonels Monday night, it gave the Bulldogs a lift going into halftime.
It was the difference of MSU being up 36-27 at the intermission instead of just 34-27 against a scrappy Nicholls State team.
"I just came off the back screen and it opened up," Augustus said of the play. "It gave us momentum going into the second half."
It's hard to know for sure what would've happened if the Bulldogs hadn't had the extra cushion going into halftime, but with the ability that Anatoly Bose, Ben Martin, Dantrell Thomas and Fred Hunter had to score for the Colonels, every point in the game was big.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury called a timeout with 29 seconds left in the first half to give some extra thought to the situation.
He felt the moment was important enough to take the time to discuss the strategy with his team.
"Sometimes you don't always get what you call, but we got it in that case," Stansbury said. "Unlike the play we drew up the other night, we were able to execute it in that situation."
The Bulldogs were able to win the third of a five-game stretch over five days and improved their record to 6-2.
There remains times when MSU doesn't look like a very good basketball team, which could lead to struggles by the time Southeastern Conference play starts.
It's going to be interesting to see how the Bulldogs use tonight's game against Alabama State (which will be free of charge by the way), the exhibition game against Belhaven in Jackson and road experiences in Hawaii, the Bahamas and Las Vegas to improve before the start of league play against Alabama on Jan. 8, 2011.
It's always good to get a second opinion on such things.
Shane Power, who played at MSU from 2004-05, will join Bart Gregory for tonight's television broadcast of the Alabama State game on CSS.
Power said the Bulldogs have done a good job so far of piecing together a winning season without the services of Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney.
"They've been able to give some other guys minutes that should really pay off when they get later in the season, especially come conference play when you need that depth off the bench," Power said.
Sidney will be eligible for MSU, starting with Wednesday's game against Belhaven, while Bost gets to play for the first time against Alabama.
The losses the Bulldogs had to Florida Atlantic and East Tennessee State bother Power and says the defeats may be due to a lack of toughness.
"With the experience we've got, we've got to step up with that toughness and with that experience and win those games," Power said.
Power believes once Bost and Sidney get back, Stansbury is a good enough coach to keep MSU in the thick of the SEC West race.
"If they take another step up in toughness, come together and get that chemistry, energy and fire, then I think they can do what they've done the last few years," Power said. "Coach does a good job of bringing the team along as the year goes on and I think he'll do that with this team."
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.