By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – I’m not buying what this team is selling, and I’m not sure Dee Bost is either. After Mississippi State’s 75-57 loss to Alabama on Saturday, Bost, the junior guard making his season debut, gave the most honest assessment of this team I’ve heard all year.
“We’ve got to come out from the get-go and play with some heart,” he said. “Once again, like I said, when I was watching from home we didn’t play with heart, and today we didn’t play with heart.”
So I asked Bost why the Bulldogs had no heart. His voice lowered as he replied, “To be honest, I really don’t know. Somewhere we’ve got to find that deep down inside with our team and start playing with it.”
Dig all you want, Dee, but I’m not sure you’re going to find anything but empty promises.
Sophomore Renardo Sidney talks a much bigger game than he plays, senior sharpshooter Ravern Johnson is clearly getting worn down from having to carry this team earlier in the season, the players are giving up, and coach Rick Stansbury keeps dodging all these ugly truths.
He keeps hiding behind empty colloquialisms, like, “What it is, is what it is.”
That’s what he said when I asked why Sidney wasn’t in better physical condition.
Sidney not delivering
I’d like to ask Sidney himself what’s holding him back, but Stansbury is keeping him off-limits to the media for now, likely because of his latest suspension stemming from the fistfight with Elgin Bailey in Hawaii. That’s probably good, because letting Sidney talk would only give him the opportunity to stick his big foot in his even bigger mouth, again.
Back on Dec. 14, as his long NCAA suspension was coming to an end, Sidney said, “I don’t think nobody in the nation or the world can guard me on the block.”
Then JaMychal Green must be from another planet. The Alabama forward, one of the better big men in the SEC, absolutely shut down Sidney on Saturday, holding him to two points, and that came on a fadeaway jumper.
I’ll give Sidney credit for playing surprisingly tough defense on Green in the first half, but he didn’t show the same sort of determination on the offensive end, and clearly got tired. I’ve yet to see why anyone thought he was a McDonald’s All-American in high school.
I have noticed that Sidney’s been quieter on Twitter lately. The guy who calls himself “Tha Difference” hasn’t said anything like what he wrote Wednesday, when he was “ready to shut sum of these people mouth up.”
At least he’s taking his own advice.
For whatever reason, Stansbury feels Sidney’s worth the effort. Question is, do the rest of the Bulldogs feel that way, and is the rest of this season worth the effort to them?
Bost remains optimistic
Bost said after the game that at one point the Bulldogs “gave up.” Yet he said the locker room was still upbeat.
“Everybody was still keeping their heads up and (ready to) get the next one,” he said.
Well, for their sake, I hope that’s correct. The kind of turmoil this team has gone through, including the in-season transfers of Bailey and Twany Beckham last week, does not seem conducive to an atmosphere of optimism, especially when you’re 8-7 and unable to be competitive for long stretches.
Bost was the only player Saturday to show much fire, getting in Green’s face at one point when they got tangled up.
There’s been little fire for MSU, which has lost five of its last six, the average margin of defeat being 21.6 points. During that span, Johnson has gone stone cold, and it’s probably because he was the only legitimate scoring threat State could count on every night, so he’s wearing down.
When asked about that, Stansbury quickly steered his answer toward the entire team: “He never really got it going consistently out there, kind of like everybody else.”
All signs point to this being a long rest of the season, yet Bost said, “We’re going to make a run, so no worries right now.”
I wonder if Bost really believes that. I sure don’t.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.