BRAD LOCKE: Surging Bulldogs tackle big do-list

By Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – The checklist is long, but Rick Stansbury is going to try and narrow it down.
The Mississippi State coach has a few extra days to work with his team, which doesn’t play again until Saturday, when it visits Georgia (13-3, 2-1 SEC).
While the Bulldogs (10-7, 2-1) have collected a pair of nice wins against Ole Miss and Auburn this past week, there is much Stansbury wants to sharpen.
This is still a relatively new-look team with junior point guard Dee Bost having three games under his belt and 6-foot-10 sophomore Renardo Sidney finally moving past his December suspensions.
“You start making a checklist of things you want to go down, if you’re not careful, you can check off everything,” Stansbury said. “We’ve got to pick and choose those things that can help us continue to get better and still be able to move forward as a team (with) some things we’re able to do.”
Among the things that need work: fewer turnovers (MSU had 17 vs. Auburn), better interior defense, and a crisper halfcourt offense.
As Stansbury noted after Sunday’s game, practices aren’t normally a huge deal this time of year. But given all the changes to the lineup, it’s become a priority.
So after taking Monday off, the Bulldogs are going to hit the grind today.
“It’s different for us, because we’re still trying to get our chemistry and our rhythm down pat,” Bost said after Sunday’s win. “We need every practice we can get.”
The long week comes at a good time. MSU’s next three games are against Eastern Division foes, and that’s where the balance of power has tilted in the SEC this year.
After Georgia, MSU plays host to Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-2) on Jan. 27 and then Florida (13-4, 2-1) on Jan. 29.
“This is a team that’s so different from where we’re at, and normally this time of year you just keep defining where you’re at and getting better at it,” Stansbury said. “But this team here, we have to get better in so many areas. That’s why practice time is, again, so important for us.”
Bost, Sid impress Fox
n Bost and Sidney have made huge impacts that last two games, averaging a combined 36.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 9.5 assists.
Georgia coach Mark Fox got a good look at both players when MSU beat Ole Miss. Bost scored 25 in that game, Sidney 24.
“You’re talking about two guys with pro-type talent that they’ve added to their team now,” Fox said, “and that’ll make a huge difference.”
Silenced Sidney
n Sidney has not been made available to the media since before the Bulldogs went on their road trip to the Bahamas, Hawaii and Las Vegas, and it’s going to stay that way for a while. It’s been more than a month since he’s spoken publicly outside of his Twitter page.
“That’s my choice, and it’ll probably last all season,” Stansbury said.
Sidney was suspended twice on the road trip, the second time for brawling with teammate Elgin Bailey, who has since left the team.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@journalinc.com.