By MATTHEW STEVENS
Today marks an historic day in the 35-year history of Humphrey Coliseum.
When the ball is tipped between Auburn and Mississippi State for a Southeastern Conference matchup, it will begin the 500th men's contest in the history of the Bulldogs home building.
To honor the milestone, MSU former coach Kermit Davis, who oversaw the move from McCarthy Gym to the Hump, will be on hand to present the
game ball to the officials prior to tip. Davis finished with a 91-91 record in seven season with the Bulldogs from 1971-77.
In a ironic twist, it was Auburn (7-9. 0-2 in SEC play) that in all probability ended the hopes of State’s at-large berth chances to last
year’s NCAA Tournament with a crushing 89-80 loss to the Tigers in the final game ever at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
The loss was MSU’s fifth defeat to a team ranked outside the Top 100 in the ratings percentage index just 10 days away from Selection Sunday.
With the 2010-11 season already getting negatively out of hand with five losses in its last six contests, Mississippi State (9-7, 1-1) potentially reversed its fortune with a 69-64 victory at Ole Miss in a hostile environment in Oxford.
“To come in here and win, I know how special it is when you're trying to get your team to believe in something tonight,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said.
One of the things that finally came together for Bulldogs was the emergence of junior Dee Bost and sophomore Renardo Sidney in the same game for the first time this year.
In the second game back from his suspension, Bost led MSU with a game-high 25 points and controlled the tempo of the game by efficiently running consistent pick-and-roll action for easy baskets.
“It's very obvious Dee had a rhythm,” Stansbury said after the Ole Miss game. “He controlled the flow of the game and that's what I liked about him tonight.”
Sidney had a career-high 24 points and was able to step back and nail jump shots over a Rebels defense that failed to cover him throughout the Bulldogs third straight victory in Oxford.
“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.”
While Stansbury holds a nearly even career winning record against Auburn at 14-10, the Bulldogs have beaten the Tigers in Starkville nine times over the last decade.
“Now it’s time to focus on Auburn,” Stansbury said. “All you need to know about Auburn is that they beat Florida State. And we all saw what Florida State did (this week) to Duke.”
Auburn new head coach Tony Barbee has struggled in his first season since leading UTEP to the NCAA Tournament last year. The Tigers are the worst in the SEC in both offensive points per game and defensive field goal percentage.
Auburn, who managed to score only six points in the first half of its conference-opening loss to LSU, has only guard Earnest Ross (12.3 ppg) in the league’s Top 30 scorers.
“I told the guys, ‘If you shot well like Earnest did tonight, don’t think you played well.’” Barbee said after the LSU loss. “It’s easy to make shots when it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to make shots when the game’s on the line, when it’s 0-0 and every shot you take matters.”
If State can get the victory today, they will put themselves in a four-way tie at 2-1 in league play for the Western Division lead with Alabama, Arkansas and LSU.