By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Dee Bost had the game in his hands and nearly gave it away, but he grabbed it back at the end.
Bost’s steal and dunk with 4.1 seconds left sealed a 62-58 win for No. 20 Mississippi State over Tennessee at Humphrey Coliseum on Thursday. It was the first SEC win of the season for the Bulldogs (14-3, 1-1 SEC), who bounced back from a discouraging loss at Arkansas five days earlier.
Bost, the senior point guard, has been discouraged lately as well as he searches for his shot. He was 3 of 11 on Thursday and limited in the first half because of foul trouble.
But he had a big second-half 3-pointer – and, of course, the closing sequence.
“It has been frustrating for me. I take that, carry it over to the next game, stay positive,” he said.
Bost was trying to work some clock and add to MSU’s two-point lead in the waning seconds when his pass to the win was picked off by Skylar McBee with 19 seconds left. It was Bost’s sixth turnover of the game.
After a timeout by Tennessee (8-8, 1-1), point guard Trae Golden lost his footing and the ball, and Bost raced with it the other way to close it out.
“He was dribbling and I guess he just lost it,” Bost said. “I was trying to put as much pressure as I could on him.”
Making big stops
Bost finished with 13 points, five assists and four steals. Golden led Tennessee with 20 points.
“Dee’s going to give you some good,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “He’s been struggling some offensively, but you never fault his effort, and late in that game his effort made a huge play there.”
His steal was one of several big defensive stops late by State, although Renardo Woolridge’s 3-pointer with 44 seconds left cut the lead to 60-58.
Forwards Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney had 13 points apiece for MSU, combining to shoot 10 of 18 from the field. MSU shot 44 percent as a team; Tennessee shot 42.6 percent and made 7 of 14 from 3-point range.
Golden led UT with 20 points.
MSU was clinging to a three-point lead when Bost buried his lone 3-pointer of the night for a 59-53 lead with 3:11 left. Reserve Wendell Lewis had some big stops down the stretch and tied a career high with five blocks.
MSU’s defense was a lot more stingy than it was in last week’s 98-88 loss at Arkansas. The Volunteers didn’t get consistently clean looks inside, either from driving guards or post players.
The Bulldogs matched Tennessee’s physical style of play.
“We knew coming into the game Tennessee was always physical, try to out-tough you,” Moultrie said. “We were prepared for it.”
Shortly after Sidney went down with a tweaked ankle early in the second half, a Jalen Steele 3-pointer pushed the lead to 39-27. Sidney soon returned, and his layup gave State a 45-34 edge with 14:57 left.
MSU went nearly eight minutes without a field goal as Tennessee pulled within 51-47, but Sidney ended the drought with a layup with 5:55 left.
UT led 22-21 in the first half when MSU reeled off six straight points, including a lob from DeVille Smith to Moultrie for a thunderous dunk. Moultrie scored all six of his first-half points in the final four minutes, and the Bulldogs went on a 9-2 run to take a 36-27 halftime lead.