By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State started strong, then faded as they picked up the season-opening 76-66 win over Eastern Kentucky Monday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs were able to pick up the win, but the Colonels gave them a run for their money.
"Give Eastern credit, they did what they had to do to give themselves a chance (to win)," said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. "They came in and did what they do best, they spread you out, they controlled the tempo of the game and if they shoot it pretty well, they have a better chance to win the game."
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 20-8 lead, but then hit a scoring drought midway through the first half, allowing the Colonels to close the gap. MSU hit only four of its 18 shots in the last 10 minutes of the first half, but managed to hold on to a 33-27 lead at the break.
When MSU's offensive woes hit, the defense also seemed to struggle courtesy of Eastern Kentucky's 1-3-1 offense.
"They do something you just don't see a lot," said Stansbury. "It wasn't a surprise to us, they play a 1-3-1 and that's just different, but we found a way to win it and we found a way to win it playing differently."
Late in the second half, the Colonels pulled within six points and then senior guard Dee Bost stepped up and took control.
Bost scored most of the Bulldogs final points and he feels it was something he had to do.
"I turned the ball over too much, so I had to do something to make up for it," said Bost.
Bost, who played 37 minutes and led the team with 23 points, turned the ball over five times, but his play at the end of the game did seem to make up for that.
"Dee jumped up there in that stretch when it came a five or six point game," said Stansbury. "He knocked down a big three, and he played a lot of minutes tonight."
Bost seemed to give Eastern Kentucky some headaches with his defense as well as his offense, but that doesn't mean it was easy to defend their unique style of offense.
"It was real frustrating," said Bost. "That's our first time playing a team like that since I've been here and it was frustrating to guard but we pulled it out."
Bost wasn't the only MSU player who shined as Arnett Moultrie picked up his first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds and 13 points. Of his 10 rebounds, six came on the defense side, but Moultrie doesn't think the defense is where they should be.
"It was an ugly game but a win is a win," said Moultrie. "We got a lot of work to do on our defense."
Even though the offense didn't have a great night either, shooting only 48.3 percent, there seems to be little worry about that.
"Our offense is going to come," said Bost. "If we keep sharing the ball and doing what we do, we'll be fine."
Freshman Rodney Hood seems to have found his place on offense by scoring 12 points in his first college game and even finished just one rebound shy of a double-double. Normally his shot is a mid-range jumper, Hood hit two 3-pointers in the game.
"i just go off instinct," said Hood. "If I feel like i got a 3, I'll take it, but I think I get in trouble sometimes when I feel uncertain about what I need to do, so I just need to play basketball."
Hood's stats for his first college game was something that Stansbury seemed to be happy with.
"i think he played pretty well," said Stansbury. "He had pretty good stats for a freshman and I'll take that if he's a junior even. Rodney is beyond his years in his mental part of the game, he just has to learn the physical part of it, the toughness, and only time is going to tell that."
With the first game of the season out of the way, the Bulldogs will now prepare for Akron.
"Akron's a real real good team," said Stansbury. "They were a NCAA team last year and they will be a really good."
Akron junior Zeke Marshall is a seven foot guard that Moultrie is excited about going against, even though he says he doesn't know much about the Zips.
"I know they were pretty good last year," said Moultrie. "Coach says they have a seven footer that's pretty good, so I'm looking forward to that to see how good he is."
Moultrie and the Bulldogs will see just how good all of Akron is and put their own talents to the test on Wednesday when the Zips come to Starkville. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU and tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.