Bost Sparks State Past Colonels 76-66

For the first time in five years Mississippi State wasn't able to begin a new season celebrating the old one by unveiling any banners. But if Dee Bost plays a complete campaign as he did on this opening night, he'll have to return a year from now to commemorate something special.

Bost tipped off his senior season with a 23-point performance that included some, maybe most of Mississippi State's biggest buckets in a 76-66 win over visiting Eastern Kentucky. The game was not only first on the Bulldog schedule but also began their stint in the 2K Sports Classic, which continues Wednesday evening with a home date against Akron.

State can certainly hope to see more of the same from Bost. Not that the veteran guard was entirely satisfied with the lidlifter. "I turned the ball over too much," he said. "I had to do something to make up for it, and I had to give the team some energy."

Translate ‘energy' as ‘points' and it works just as well. Bost stuck seven of his 15 shots, four of them from beyond the arc, and added four more free shots. He also made up for the five turnovers with six assists, as he chases the school career record before this senior season is done. Bost needs just 59 more to make the mark of 514.

Two more Bulldogs scored in double-figures, and in fact one posted a double-double in his first official MSU game. Junior transfer Arnett Moultrie balanced his 13 points with ten rebounds, while true freshman Rodney Hood debuted with a dozen points and nine rebounds.

Only, Moultrie wasn't entirely thrilled with the opening act. "We know it was an ugly game," he said. "But a win is a win."

Ugly was in the eye of the beholder and there were indeed some areas Coach Rick Stansbury can point to in practices for improvement. But the Kentucky native was not diminishing his team's success either. "Give Eastern some credit, they did what they had to do to give themselves a chance. They spread you out, controlled the tempo of the game, and if they shoot it well they have a better chance to win the game.'

The Bulldogs were glad EKU didn't shoot better than 40% overall, and especially 30% at the arc as they made ten treys. In fact over half their 65 shots came from long range as the Colonels preferred not to challenge State's superior size inside. If the drive wasn't open, a long pass would get the ball outside for a trey-try. That wasn't the only matchup issue.

"They played a 1-3-1 zone, it's just different," Stansbury said. Sufficiently so that the Bulldogs shot under 42% in the opening half and settled for jumpshot a bit too easily for the coach's taste. Still size told and MSU owned a 43-29 rebounding edge. Eastern only got seven offensive boards.

"It was real frustrating," Bost said. "That's like our first time playing against a team like that since I've been here. But we pulled it out."

Stansbury thought his team had too much success too soon as EKU played more man-defense at first. It was Bost triggering the first Bulldog run with consecutive treys, followed by backup center Wendell Lewis powering for two buckets as State went in front 20-8. Even after the Colonels hit a few long shots they were unable to close all the way, and unforced MSU turnovers were as much why the halftime lead was just 33-27 as anything the visitors did offensively.

"I thought early we had a chance to separate and we missed about three wide-open threes in a row," Stansbury said. "I think became the game came to us easy it sped us up."

The Colonel zone crimped MSU's style further in the second half preventing a runaway. Hood took over for a short stretch, then fed Bost out of the post for another threeball and 69-58 lead. It wasn't over yet as the shooting cooled and EKU found the range a few more times.

But Dog defense tightened, rebounds went their way as well, and fittingly Bost punctuated his evening with a steal-and-stuff for the final points of the evening.

Four Colonels scored double-digits, led by guard Joshua Jones with 13 and a trio of treys. Timmy Knipp had 12 and Eric Stutz 11 with eight rebounds. Stansbury didn't use his bench much in the opener with just seven Dogs playing. Forward Renardo Sidney had nine points but just three boards while guard Jalen Steele also scored nine.

Stansbury wondered if he might have gone to a zone defense himself more often, as EKU's zone not only affected State spacing but meant even forced misses didn't lead to the run-outs beloved of Bulldogs. And as Hood said, "We were a little flat offensively."

"But we found a way to win, playing different," Stansbury said. "From a learning standpoint you don't see more different things to guard from a style standpoint, offensively and defensively."

Next opponent Akron will bring a more traditional approach to Humphrey Coliseum in two days for the 6:00 tipoff. That's not necessarily a positive, though. "Akron is a real, real good team," Stansbury said. "I haven't watched tape yet but they have a big guy, supposed to be a one-and-done guy who is back as a junior. They will be really good, trust me."

Stansbury also updated a pair of player situations. Freshman guard Deville Smith missed the Friday exhibition game with an undetermined illness. It still isn't diagnosed but Smith checked out of a Jackson hospital today and made it back for gametime, even dressing out.

"I'd liked to have got him in the game if we could," Stansbury said. "It's probably best we didn't." Also, the coach said soph guard Shaun Smith "is still out with that hip thing, he got an update today and some shots."


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