By MATTHEW STEVENS
Renardo Sidney has heard the criticism.
So have his Mississippi State teammates and his head coach.
Saturday afternoon in Humphrey Coliseum all three parties did something about it in a 71-58 victory over Ole Miss.
“He’s been shot full of holes, me and him both, but hey, they can keep shooting and I don’t think it can bother us anymore,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said. “He’s taken about as much beating as he can take.”
After being criticized on national television Tuesday night, Sidney finally had the 8,063 in attendance at Humphrey Coliseum cheering with him and his third career double-double effort that included 22 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes of action.
The sophomore forward ran the floor and showed activity on defense that was the complete opposite of what was highlighted on during State’s 85-79 loss at Kentucky on ESPN four days ago.
“Dee Bost did a good job finding me in the open court,” Sidney said when interviewed after the game on The SEC Network. “It’s all about conditioning. I’m working on trying to get in better condition, running every day after practice.”
Sidney was not made available to the local media after the game per a coaching decision as the 6-foot-10 forward has been off limits since the highly-documented fight in the stands with now-former teammate Elgin Bailey.
“He’s not going to win the war in (the media room),” Stansbury said. “He doesn’t need to talk right now and not going to try to. He’s just needs to worry about playing in between those lines.”
In the two games against Ole Miss this season, Sidney has a combined 46 points on 17-for-24 from the field and played over 30 minutes in each contest.
“He obviously likes the matchup,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “You don’t want to allow him to get a deep post touch. When he catches that ball with one foot in the lane, there is no where to help from.”
A 15-2 run by Mississippi State (14-12, 6-6 in SEC) in the second half secured a 54-41 lead that included a fast break dunk where Bost found a trailing Sidney coming through the lane for one of his nine assists for the day.
Bost, who got into early foul trouble in the first half, had his lowest scoring output but for the first time in the 2010-11 season failed to surrender a turnover and was the main defender that held Ole Miss star guard Chris Warren to 4-for-14 from the field.
“I spent a lot of energy chasing him off screens so he couldn’t score as much,” Bost said. “It’s always good to see (Sidney) off running and playing the way we know he’s capable of.”
Mississippi State’s starting guard trio of Bost, Riley Benock and Jalen Steele had a combined 16 assists and no turnovers Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs showcased excellent ball movement with all but three baskets against a confused Ole Miss defense coming off an MSU assist.
In his 13-year career roaming the sidelines, Stansbury now sits with a 12-1 record against Ole Miss in Humphrey Coliseum and 20-7 overall against the Rebels.
“We had to defend our home court and it’s always special when you beat Ole Miss,’ Stansbury said.
For the third straight game, senior guard Ravern Johnson came off the bench to provide 16 points and took a more aggressive offensive mentality to the floor in his 28 minutes of action by driving to the goal along with setting up his long-range shooting.
“Ravern was very consistent for us,” Stansbury said. “I went with him a lot in that second half because he’s a senior and he understands what this game is about. He’s a guy you want to step up as a senior.”
Johnson has been relegated to the top-scoring reserve role since being suspended two games for inappropriate messages on Twitter following the road loss at Alabama two weeks ago but has averaged 18.5 points per game in his last two contests.
“He’s not pouting and being negative but instead he’s accepting his role and helping us with some points off the bench,” Bost said.
Ole Miss (17-10, 5-7) was able to tie the score at halftime and keep it close enough for a late run in the second half by outworking State on the boards for a 20-2 second-chance points advantage.
However, the loss Saturday came down to the Rebels trio of starting guards (Warren, Zach Graham and Nick Williams) shot a combined 8-for-32 from the field.
“When you shoot 34 percent from the field (and) 4-for-24 from three, you’re going to struggle on the road,” Kennedy said. “I thought we lost some poise when they made that run and before you know it, an eight-(point lead) turns to 15 just that quickly.”
The victory now put Mississippi State in a favorable position, with a 3-0 record over Arkansas and Ole Miss combined, to capture the second seed in the Western Division and the subsequent bye into the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in March that goes along with that.
“It’s a four-game season now,” Stansbury said. “They’re all big from now on.”
Mississippi State will try to make it four in a row in Starkville Wednesday when LSU comes to Humphrey Coliseum for a 8 p.m. tip on CSS.