In a desperate situation, Mississippi State’s men’s basketball team will be able to rely on its past success at the Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Bulldogs are looking for its third-straight win in Oxford tonight when they face Ole Miss in their first Southeastern Conference road test of the season (8 p.m., ESPN2).
“Just knowing the past years we went in there, we’ve won, is good and me as a player just try to do what I can to turn this around,” State junior point guard Dee Bost said.
Last season, Mississippi State (8-7, 0-1) was able to rebound from a disappointing loss at Western Kentucky to open up league play with a 80-75 victory in the Rebels’ home building thanks to a team-high 25 points from Bost.
In the frustrating beginning that has defined the 2010-11 season, MSU is trying to not only stop a skid that’s reached five losses in its last six games but also avoid the school’s first 0-2 start in SEC play since 2003.
“We definitely want to get things turns around as fast as we can,” MSU senior guard Riley Benock said. “We’re kind of in a learning curve still and putting pieces together in the middle of the season.”
In this version of the in-state rivalry, State will once again rely on its guard play with Bost in his second game back from suspension and try to invigorate the game of senior Ravern Johnson in order to pull off the upset against an Ole Miss (12-4, 0-1) squad with all-conference selection Chris Warren leading their charge at 18.6 points per game.
Both MSU and Ole Miss lost their conference openers Saturday but the Rebels came away from their road downfall at Florida much more encouraged with their future than State’s effort in their 75-57 defeat at Humphrey Coliseum against Alabama.
“We’re not to the point where we don’t think we can do it,” Benock said. “We know we have the talent and pieces but we’re just concentrating on putting that together.”
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy seemed to suggest that Florida was just the better team last Saturday night.
"As a coach as strange as this may sound, there are games sometimes you lose and there’s games your opponents win,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “I really didn’t think we lost the game but Florida won the game by playing tremendously down the stretch.”
Kennedy is 3-5 in his career against Mississippi State with splits in his first four seasons culminating in a Bulldogs sweep last year.
“There’s no question we’re going to have to play at our very best,” Stansbury said in a university release. “It’s going to be a challenge. But hey, it’s always a challenge when you go on the road in this league.”
If there’s any game State sophomore forward Renardo Sidney could have a physical advantage in the post, it would likely be tonight against Ole Miss due to the Rebels starting frontline of junior Terrance Henry and sophomore Reginald Buckner giving up at least a couple inches and nearly 40 pounds to the Bulldogs forward.
Sidney struggled to finish with just two points on 1-for-8 shooting in 26 minutes during his Humphrey Coliseum debut Saturday night.
“Hopefully he understands more now what it’s like at this level with the toughness, the energy and the conditioning you got to be in,” Stansbury said.
Since the 1999 season, MSU has won 34 SEC road games, the most in the Western Division and the fourth-most overall. Kentucky is tops with 58, followed by Florida with 50 and Tennessee at 43.