By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
How would you frame Mississippi State’s overtime loss to LSU on Tuesday night?
If you’re Rick Stansbury, you frame it in the narrowest context possible. You isolate this stunning loss – MSU led by 17 points in the first half – and even isolate the key moments within the loss.
If you’re a Bulldog fan, you frame it in a much broader context, one that includes numerous disappointments and frustrations of the past. For all the games Stansbury has won in his 13-plus seasons as head coach – 291 to be exact, most in school history – he has given MSU fans countless reasons to gnash their teeth.
Following the 69-67 loss to LSU, Stansbury sat in the small media room and repeatedly preached the mantra of life on the SEC road being a tough one. He riled up plenty of fans with this comment: “Guys, we were the underdog here tonight. We’re the underdog on the road, now.”
That’s a mentality that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. MSU is too talented to be an underdog to LSU. Too talented to lose at home to Georgia the game before. Too talented to be 6-5 in the SEC at this point in the season.
I’ve said numerous times that anything less than a Sweet 16 appearance by this team is unacceptable. Stansbury has never seen the second weekend of the NCAA tournament as a head coach. That’s the big picture fans are seeing.
They also see how regrettable the Renardo Sidney signing was – the 6-foot-11 forward has yet to even sniff his potential.
They see the disturbing amount of annual attrition. Since 2005, 15 players have left the program and transferred elsewhere, including two of State’s 2011 signees (D.J. Gardner to ICC and Shawn Long to Louisiana-Lafayette).
They see a season so full of potential slipping away. Dee Bost, Arnett Moultrie, Jalen Steele, Rodney Hood, and Sidney when he’s mostly on his game – that’s a group overflowing with talent.
Once considered a lock for the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs are in real danger of missing out. How confident are you they’ll win at Auburn against a team that they only beat by three at home? Then there’s Kentucky at home followed by two more road games, and Arkansas at home to close out the regular season.
Even at Humphrey Coliseum, MSU has had trouble closing out teams. I asked Stansbury about that on Tuesday, but he didn’t really answer the question. He reverted to the “life on the road” line. He seemed to be minimizing all of the above-stated issues.
Perhaps this mentality can be partly explained by how Stansbury viewed Anthony Hickey’s game-winning bucket. He said Hickey was “no factor” because he had just eight points and one assist.
He said Justin Hamilton’s game-tying 3-pointer in OT was a bigger shot. But Hickey’s shots was the most timely, therefore it had the most impact.
That’s the context in which this team and this season should be viewed. MSU needs to be making the big shots, the timely shots, especially against inferior competition. On the whole, that hasn’t happened, and it should bother Stansbury as much as it’s bothering the fans.
Brad Locke (brad.locke@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.