By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s loss to Arkansas taught Rodney Hood a few things, and he thinks it taught other teams a few things about his Bulldogs.
The freshman guard had his eyes opened to what SEC play is like in Saturday’s 98-88 setback in Fayetteville. He said he could “hardly breathe” the first few minutes of the game.
“It was just real loud,” Hood said of Bud Walton Arena. “I’d never been in an atmosphere like that.”
Hood handled it well, though, getting 17 points and five rebounds. He now feels a bit more prepared for the rest of the SEC slate, which for No. 20 MSU (13-3, 0-1) continues tonight when Tennessee (8-7, 1-0) visits Humphrey Coliseum. The game is today at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
“I’m mentally prepared for it,” Hood said. “I’ve been watching tape on Tennessee. I know how they play. I know their personnel. So I think we’ll be ready.”
He also thinks Tennessee will be ready for MSU, which couldn’t handle the constant pressure put on by Arkansas. That’s the Razorbacks’ style and not so much Tennessee’s, but Hood thinks teams have a blueprint from which to work when facing State.
“Pressure us, run us. We didn’t get back in transition,” Hood said. “They got too many transition buckets.”
MSU coach Rick Stansbury isn’t so sure about that. He’s not too worried about teams having a bead on how to beat the Bulldogs, but he would like to see a better defensive effort tonight.
The 98 points scored by Arkansas were the most MSU has given up under Stansbury since Alabama scored 98 in 2005. The Razorbacks had little trouble getting to the basket against State’s porous perimeter defense.
“We all know that we have to get better defensively if we want to be as good as we want to be, especially on on-ball defense. That’s what hurting us the most,” said forward Arnett Moultrie, who fouled out against Arkansas.
Moultrie said he expects Tennessee to press the way Arkansas did, but that’s not necessarily the Volunteers’ style. They certainly will be physical, as that’s a major tenet of first-year coach Cuonzo Martin’s philosophy.
“We like to be tough, hard-nosed on the defensive side of the ball, and also offensively,” Martin said.
The Volunteers are coming off a 67-56 win over Florida, and it’s been a year of wild ups and downs for this team. They lost six of seven before winning five of their last six.
Perhaps Martin’s philosophy is taking hold.
However the Vols attack MSU, the Bulldogs expect to better handle it than they did at Arkansas.
“We’ve just got to get better today and take a different attitude,” point guard Dee Bost said. “Tennessee is coming off a big win, and we’ve got to come in, and we’ve got to hit them in the mouth early.”