The Mississippi State Bulldogs finished the regular season with a 3-5 record during the second half of Southeastern Conference play, including a five-game skid that began with a loss to Georgia.
Tonight in the New Orleans Arena, MSU has its shot at revenge on one the biggest of stages, the SEC Tournament.
“No matter who would we play, we got to treat them all the same," said first-team All-SEC point guard Dee Bost of State. "I was happy because, you know, they beat us so we got to come in with the mentality, a different mentality, and we feel we owe Georgia one. They got us on our home court, and we know how important it is to get a win as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned."
Georgia entered the Humphrey Coliseum and snapped a 13-game home win streak, shocking the maroon clad Bulldogs with a 70-68 overtime defeat. “We didn’t play our best against Georgia,” said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. “Take nothing away from Georgia. They played well, and they’re like everybody else, if you’re not at your best, they can beat you.”
While that setback fuels State to bounce back against UGA, it's also riding the momentum of a two-game win streak that has boosted its confidence in being able to make a run in New Orleans.
“I feel like we’re coming out playing harder and playing together,” said Bost, who is averaging 15.8 points per outing. “We had a five-game losing streak, but I feel like we got it together now.”
Arnett Moultrie agreed the Bulldogs are playing with more poise and confidence heading into their rematch with UGA. The MSU forward, who leads the league with 18 double-doubles and averages 16.1 points per game, knows what his role must be in order to pick up the first round win.
“I got to do a better job of blocking those guys out and limiting their offensive rebounds,” said Moultrie. Stansbury agreed that Moultrie plays a big role as the Bulldogs look to work the post.
“It’s no secret," said Stansbury, who has 16 tournament wins to his credit, third most in the SEC. "That’s every game. We try to throw it inside every game, and if the opponent would agree to us, then it becomes easy. The opponent has a lot to do and say what goes on, and how you do things.”
State has NCAA seeding riding on tonight’s outcome. A win and MSU is alive, but lose and it's likely the NIT. All the Bulldogs are looking for is a chance and they like the opportunity they’ve been given.
“I don’t think there’s any question that we have an opportunity," Stansbury said. "We have a chance. That’s all you ask for. An opportunity and a chance. It’s four games for us. Take them one at a time. None of them are easy. One of the most difficult ones is always that first with you.”
MSU and UGA take the court at 9 p.m. for a game televised on the SEC Network with the winner earning the opportunity to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in round two action.