Bulldogs Escape Utah State With 66-64 Win

STARKVILLE, Miss. ­- A pair of Dee Bost free throws with 34 seconds remaining lifted Mississippi State past Utah State 66-64 in the final men's basketball game of 2011 played in Humphrey Coliseum.

On a night when Bost scored only five points, his final two were the most important as No. 14 MSU bounced back from a two-point loss against No. 6 Baylor Wednesday night. The Bulldogs will carry a 13-2 overall mark into the conference part of their schedule. The Bulldogs have now won 13 non-conference games three times under coach Rick Stansbury.

Western Athletic Conference-member Utah State is now 8-6.

"We knew we had left a lot on the floor against Baylor and this was going to be an extremely difficult game for us," Stansbury said. "Utah State had nine days to prepare, and we were coming off a very emotional loss. This was a very good win but the game was not good for us because of where it fell on the schedule.

"On top of that, we had some players who had a difficult time even going today. We weren't sure if everybody was going to be available."

The Bulldogs were working their way through some illness issues. Wendell Lewis was battling a headache, while Brian Bryant was playing with a stomach virus. Both Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney were slowed due to sinus infections.

Still, the Bulldogs found a way to move to 9-1 at home this season. MSU survived a game in which neither team led by more than nine points, there were 11 ties and nine lead changes.

"I was proud of the determination we had to find a way to win," Stansbury said. "DeVille (Smith) gave us a big spark off the bench. He had seven points and we might not win the game without those seven points. Arnett wasn't feeling well but made contributions.

"Dee is a senior leader. He had an off night from the floor but he steps up and makes two free throws to win the game."

Both teams struggled out of the gate as the first media timeout was reached with a 2-2 tie. The Aggies inched out to a 16-5 advantage less than nine minutes into the contest as the Bulldogs struggled to find an early offensive rhythm.

Smith entered the contest and did provide the Maroon and White a much-needed spark. Smith scored his seven points in succession with a defensive rebound, layup, 3-point basket and pair of foul shots.

A Rodney Hood 3-point basket capped a 14-3 run with a 3-point basket. The lead then changed hands on a couple of occasions before MSU eased into a 32-29 halftime lead with a Renardo Sidney 3-point basket in the final half-minute.

The Bulldogs had the better of it throughout most of the second half. MSU ran its lead to 43-36 with 13:59 left on a jumper by Hood and 3-point basket by Jalen Steele.

The Aggies battled back with an 18-10 run. A Ben Clifford trey placed the visitors on top 54-53 with 7:08 remaining.

Utah State still held a 64-62 lead on a jumper by Kyisean Reed with 2:42 remaining.

The Bulldogs answered with a putback by Moultrie with 1:25 left. Defensively, MSU forced a turnover and the Bulldogs scored again when Bost drew contact on a shot attempt with 34 seconds left.

Utah State had one last shot but Danny Berger's 3-point shot attempt bounced off the back iron as regulation time expired.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 26 of 60 shots from the field (43.3 percent), 7 of 16 shots from 3-point range (43.8 percent) and 7 of 12 shots from the foul line (58.3 percent). The Aggies hit 27 of 56 shots from the field (48.2 percent), 4 of 11 shots from 3-point range (36.4 percent) and 6 of 9 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).

MSU held a 35-31 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 14 assists and nine turnovers, while the Aggies had nine assists and nine turnovers.

Hood led MSU with 16 points. Moultrie had his eighth double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Sidney added 13 points. Hood has now scored in double figures 11 times this season. The Bulldogs are 8-0 when Moultrie posts a double-double.

Bost also set a new career mark for assists with four in the victory. Bost now has 514 assists, breaking the previous mark set by Derrick Zimmerman.

"He is one of our leading scorers too," Stansbury said. "That is what makes Dee so special. He is not a player who just dishes the basketball. He is a play maker and he creates offense. He has also become a leader. To hold this university's record for assists is quite the accomplishment."

Utah State received 15 points from Preston Medlin, 11 points from Brockeith Pane and 10 points from Morgan Grim.

MSU opens Southeastern Conference play Saturday with a road trip to Arkansas. The Bulldogs and Razorbacks meet at 8 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena. The contest will be regionally televised by Comcast Sports Southeast. MSU's home conference opener is Jan. 12 against Tennessee.

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