By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Dee Bost does not easily forget the bad non-conference losses his team suffered last season.
Even though he was on the bench at the time due to an NCAA suspension, Bost watched Mississippi State absorb home losses against Florida Atlantic and East Tennessee State. And he was on the court for the season-opening home loss to Rider two years ago.
So when the No. 17-ranked Bulldogs (8-1) host Troy (4-3) at 3 p.m. today, Bost will be on guard against the proverbial letdown.
“You’ve just got to take the same focus you take as if you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country,” Bost said. “You can’t have no slip-ups. That’s what we know from having them the past few years, and we’re trying to eliminate that.”
MSU already has some notable wins under its belt, against Arizona, Texas Aamp&M and most recently West Virginia. It’s won seven in a row and has bigger games ahead, such as Baylor and Utah State.
Coach Rick Stansbury doesn’t expect Troy to be overlooked. MSU was taken into overtime by this team last season before prevailing, 92-83.
This year’s edition is a small, fast, hot-shooting squad that leads the nation in 3-pointers made (12.0 per game). The Trojans have made 43 percent from behind the arc during their current three-game winning streak.
“Shooting it has nothing to do with size,” Stansbury said. “The size is their advantage offensively for them. When they make shots, that’s what makes them so dangerous.”
Leading the way at point guard is Will Weathers, a 171-pound transfer from UCF who’s averaging a team-high 13.2 points and 6.7 assists per game. The main post presence is 6-foot-9, 210-pound senior Tim Owens, who’s averaging 4.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Troy remains without starter Steven Cunningham, who’s missed the last four games with a fractured orbital bone.
The Trojans’ smaller lineup could force MSU to go small as well, but Stansbury has played that way before and can do so again. All of MSU’s guards can handle the ball well, as can forward Arnett Moultrie. It’s that sort of versatility that should help State avoid upset losses.
“We’ve just got to put pressure on them and make them run away from the 3-point line and make them put it on the ground,” said Bost. “We’ve got to set the tempo with this team.”