Bounce Back Year

FAYETTEVILLE -- Rick Stansbury almost didn't know how to handle last season. He hadn't experienced that type of losing in his eight seasons at Mississippi State.

Following a 23-11 season in 2004-05 that capped a string of four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, the Bulldogs went 15-15 last season.

Stansbury said he learned a great deal during the conference slate when the Bulldogs posted a sub .500 record (5-11) for the first time in five years.

"I was probably the most patient I've ever been," Stansbury said. "There were some things I understood. We lost five seniors. We had a really unbelievable run. Even though I knew we had it set last year to be back there again, we lost Monte Ellis to the (NBA) draft. I kept that in perspective. I was dealt the hand. No making excuses.

"We have moved on."

Now, with that realization, the Bulldogs head into the 2005-06 season ready to restore success in Starkville.

The Bulldogs bring back four starters, including leading scorers Charles Rhodes and Jamont Gordon who each averaged 13.8 points per game. Dietric Slater and Reginald Delk will also help give this Mississippi State a comfortable feel, much needed after last season's trying experience.

"We have much better chemistry this year compared to last year," Rhodes said. "We also posses a much stronger desire to win this year too. It is going to be real exciting to see what turns out."

Rhodes said things had to turn out better this season. He said he felt the lowest he had ever felt after Mississippi State started 11-3 last season but followed with seven consecutive SEC losses.

With another year of experience and several talented freshmen coming in, Rhodes said the SEC West could expect a stiffer fight from the Bulldogs.

"We're just a year older, a year smarter, a year better," Rhodes said. "I can't wait. I can't wait for teams to take us lightly. Let them."

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