By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – The shackles have fallen off Dee Bost.
No longer does Mississippi State have to fully depend on him when the ball must be taken up the court, or when the offense needs to be set up, or when a drive to the basket or pull-up 3-pointer must be made.
Bost, the senior point guard for the No. 21-ranked Bulldogs (7-1), can be more himself. Others can handle the ball. Others can play point. Others can make plays.
With guys like DeVille Smith, Rodney Hood and Jalen Steele in the backcourt, Bost has found he doesn’t have to force the issue so much. When he slides over to the two-guard or even three-guard spot, the game is there for the taking. His chances to score are plentiful.
“He’s a scoring guard you’ve got to give some mental freedom to to go make plays at different times,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “When he’s off that ball, I think it’s easier for him even, relaxes him some, takes some pressure off of him, enables him to get some better shots in transition than he does with a point guard on you.”
Said Bost, “I just basically read the defense sometimes or depending on how the game is going. That’s what I’ve been doing lately, is just waiting.”
Bost is averaging a team-leading 17.0 points per game, plus 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists. An even bigger stat: He’s logging 33 minutes per game, nearly two-and-a-half minutes less than what he averaged last season.
“It gets him some rest without a defender up into him 90 feet,” said Stansbury, “and plus it puts a different defender on him. It puts a two on him or a three on him, where he’s got a quicker advantage on.”
MSU’s new-look backcourt will be tested in tonight’s game against West Virginia in the Big East/Challenge.
The Mountaineers (4-1), who are making their first trip to Starkville, are led by lightning-fast freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 4.2 assists per game and has helped Bob Huggins’ team find an identity early in the season.
There won’t be as much pressure on Bost and the other guards as there could be. Big men Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney returned to action Sunday against North Texas after each missing the previous two games with injuries.
So the Bulldogs and Mountaineers will have quite the battle inside, as the visitors boast 6-foot-8, 260-pound senior Kevin Jones (21.0 ppg, 12.2 rpg) and 6-9 junior Deniz Kilicli (10.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
It’s a matchup that’s concerning for both coaches. WVU is out-rebounding its opponents by nearly plug-9 per game, while MSU is close to plus-7.
Bost sees an advantage in the post with Moultrie and Sidney back, as far as his own play is concerned.
“It makes it a lot easier,” Bost said. “Two big towers down there rebounding and us feeding it to them to try to score, and teams having to collapse down, they get wide-open shots for us.”