By MATTHEW STEVENS
OXFORD – Go ahead and possibly call 2011, the same song, but with a different verse.
Last season Dee Bost was able to silence the Tad Smith Coliseum crowd with 25 points to get State’s season back on track in the Bulldogs’ first Southeastern Conference road trip.
The MSU junior point guard did it again Thursday night in State’s 69-64 upset win at Ole Miss in front of a surprised announced attendance of 8,407 in Oxford.
“We knew this was a must-win because one team was going to come out of here 0-2 (in league play) and we tried to make sure it wasn’t us,” Bost said. “All we kept preaching leading up to this was play with heart and don’t stop fighting.”
This time he had help from the biggest man on the floor.
Bost ended the evening with a team-high 25 points by consistently hitting momentum-building shots throughout MSU’s first league win of the 2010-11 season and third-straight rivalry victory.
“I tried to not settle for jumpers like I did (Saturday) against Alabama,” Bost said. “We knew they couldn’t guard ball screens very well and that’s what we tried to do early on.”
The shot that got State (9-7, 1-1 in SEC play) sprinting to the locker room was a pick-and-roll action three from nearly 25-feet away after a ball screen from senior forward Kodi Augustus to send an excited Mississippi State bench into the half down just 34-32.
“We allowed Dee Bost to turn the corner time and time and time again,” said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “It was a pathetic effort on our part starting with me.”
Since he signed with Mississippi State on April 30, 2009, Bulldogs fans had been waiting for sophomore forward Renardo Sidney to show his McDonald’s All-American form and Thursday night was that moment. The 6-foot-10 forward ended the evening with 24 points in 36 minutes, both career highs for the Jackson native in his fourth game in a MSU uniform.
Sidney was not made available after the game do to a continued coaches’ policy.
“Sid was much more efficient on that block tonight,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said. “I thought he controlled his emotions really well and played with some emotion.”
This performance was just days after his Humphrey Coliseum debut in which he finished with a disappointing two points on 1-for-8 shooting.
“There’s no substitute for experience and after Saturday I thought he attacked the rim more,” Stansbury said.
Throughout the first 20 minutes of play, the Rebels (12-5, 0-2) lived off the long-distance shot by having guards Zach Graham and Warren account for 21 first-half points on 6-for-13 from beyond the three-point arc.
Graham, who came into Thursday night averaging just under 14 points per game, nearly had that by the halftime buzzer as the 6-foot-6 swingman from Suwanee, Geo., failed to score in the second half.
Warren, the SEC’s third-leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, was unable to get offensive help on State’s long stretching 2-3 matchup zone that attacked shooters as soon as they caught the ball on the perimeter.
“It was a poor effort,” Kennedy said. “We've got to fight and find a way...good teams find ways to win in a variety of ways.”
After Ole Miss had its first four field goals be of the three-point variety, Stansbury switched out of the man-to-man defense after 16-minute media timeout and then immediately forced three straight turnovers.
“I was asking my guys to probably do too many things and that was play too much man,” Stansbury said. “If you're asking your players to do too much, that's bad coaching.”
With the Rebels down one with less than 90 seconds left in the contest, Ole Miss guard Nick Williams airballed a three-point shot just prior to a timeout by Kennedy that was rebounded by Augustus.
Williams, a transfer from Indiana, failed to make any of his six field goal attempts and posted just one point in 25 minutes of play.
“From my vantage point, he had a step in shot that SEC players need to make,” Kennedy said. “They played 35-36 minutes of zone and that means you're going to get good looks and we weren't able to knock them down.”
Warren totaled 25 points on 9-for-20 from the field and 7-for-14 from beyond the three-point arc but missed the tying jump shot with seconds left that ended all hope for the Rebels first victory against MSU since 2009.
The victory represented Stansbury’s 35th road win in the conference, which is the fourth most in the league and most in the Western Division.
“The two things I wanted our kids to do tonight was play with some heart and play with no fear,” Stansbury said. “It's very obvious we had some fear in Saturday’s game but tonight I didn’t see any of that.”