No. 15th Ranked Bulldogs Lose A Close One

DALLAS – Mississippi State desperately wanted an opportunity to prove itself among the ranks of the elite in college basketball. The 15th-ranked Bulldogs had a chance to do that Wednesday night, but in the end, the No. 6 Baylor Bears did just enough to deny them the moment they desired.

MSU, which held the lead for much of the second half, fell flat in the final minute as Baylor claimed a narrow 54-52 win in front of a crowd of 6,707 at the American Airlines Center.

The score was tied 52-52 in the final minute before Baylor guard Pierre Jackson, who led all scorers in the game with 14 points, found a crease in the lane and exploited it for an uncontested layup to give his team a 54-52 lead with 28 seconds left in the contest.

Bulldogs head coach Rick Stansbury called a timeout with 22 seconds remaining, but the play broke down on that MSU possession, which resulted in a highly contested shot by Rodney Hood in the final seconds. Jackson was then involved defensively as he leaped into the air and slapped the ball back toward the other end of the court to stop MSU from putting up a potential game-winning shot.

But the MSU conversations after the game revolved around the Bulldogs' respect after the setback against undefeated Baylor (13-0).

"I feel like we earned our respect," MSU senior point guard Dee Bost said. "We gave them a tough run, but we've still got work to do."

Stansbury was even more direct with his response to the question, which was asked of Bost at the start of the press conference and then brought up again by Stansbury at the end.

"When these guys learn how to answer you guys (media members) and learn not to be afraid of you guys, his answer should've been ‘What do you think?'" Stansbury said with a sly grin.

There's no doubt Stansbury felt like his team did enough to come away with a win a game Baylor coach Scott Drew said was akin to "an NCAA Tournament game in an NCAA Tournament environment."

The Bulldogs (12-2) played well enough to stay close with Baylor throughout the game, as neither team led by more than six points at any time during the contest.

The difference came in the final two minutes, which was a stretch that yielded zero points for MSU to Baylor's four points. Two of those points came as a result of Renardo Sidney's fifth foul. On his way to the bench, he also was whistled for a technical foul, which irked Stansbury.

"His fouling out wasn't an issue. It was fouling out and picking up a technical foul as he fouled out was the most difficult thing. You just can't have that in that situation."

Sidney's play was polarizing for the entire game. He and Jalen Steele led the team's offensive production with 10 points apiece, but Sidney followed moments of brilliance in the game with head-scratching moves on the defensive end, including his technical foul.

Bost added nine points for the Bulldogs. Brian Bryant and Arnett Moultrie tacked on eight points apiece. Moultrie was most effective on the defensive end, where he brought down 10 rebounds and held Baylor's leading scorer Perry Jones III to only eight points.

Jackson was the key component for the Bears, though, as he poured in 14 points. None of those were bigger than his game-winning layup.

"I said it before the game and I'll say it after the game," Stansbury said. "The key to their team - everybody talks about Jones – but the key to their team is Jackson. He's the guy that makes them go. They've got a lot of other guys around that team that can score in a lot of different ways, but Jackson's ability to manufacture baskets is the key."

Now the Bulldogs will attempt to put Wednesday's loss behind them as they wrap up non-conference play at 2 p.m. Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum against Utah State.

And now that they have gained just a bit of respect on the national stage, they will spend the rest of the season attempting to leap that final hurdle of toppling the nation's giants.

"Mississippi State is a great team," Baylor's Coach Drew said. "I think everybody (now) realizes their potential for the rest of the year."

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