By Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Some good parts are in place, but there is one key element that Dee Bost said is missing from his Mississippi State team.
“The same thing I’ve been saying: Heart. That’s all that’s missing,” the junior point guard said Monday. “If we play with heart and compete, then we should be in every game.”
MSU (10-8, 2-2 SEC) has not been in every game – its last six losses have all been by double digits – and Bost’s words echo what he said following an 18-point loss to Alabama in the SEC opener. The Bulldogs are now coming off a 22-point loss at Georgia, in which coach Rick Stansbury said Bost was the only player to go hard every possession.
It was perhaps Bost’s most complete game since returning from academic and NCAA suspensions: He recorded 20 points, five assists and five steals against just one turnover.
“I played hard every possession, tried to give it my all and tried to give everybody else some energy, but it seemed like it didn’t work,” he said.
Four games into his return, Bost is as dynamic as he’s ever been, and he said he didn’t feel tired during the Georgia game, when he logged 35 minutes.
Why Bost’s play hasn’t rubbed off on his teammates is a mystery to him and Stansbury alike.
“Everybody practices hard,” Bost said, “but then it seems like when the lights come on, we just go dead or whatever.”
Once Georgia raced out to an 11-2 lead, the Bulldogs lost confidence and lost the game right there, never making a real push to get back in it. The most telling stat was State getting out-rebounded 48-23.
The bench play hasn’t been exemplary, either. MSU’s reserves are averaging 10.3 points in SEC games, and that number is skewed by a 22-point outing against lowly Auburn.
Seeking a spark
So Stansbury is searching for solutions, but he said shuffling the lineup isn’t one of them.
“If I had something to shift it with I thought would really spark it, then I would make that move,” Stansbury said. “But I don’t know if there’s anything really gives me the spark I’d like to have.”
Besides a lack of heart, one major issue has been getting certain players to grasp certain things, be it a technical aspect of the game or a mental approach.
Sophomore Renardo Sidney, for example, told Bost he thought he played “all right” against Georgia, when he notched 15 points and nine rebounds. But most of the production came during garbage time, and Stansbury was critical of Sidney’s performance afterwards.
“We will try to show him all that on the floor and in film sessions,” Stansbury said. “That’s what we’ve got to continue to do. Make him understand what you think you’re doing and what you’ve got to do, and see yourself doing it.”
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, whose No. 19-ranked Commodores travel to Starkville on Thursday, said he thinks MSU is still capable of winning the SEC. Stansbury gave pause at that thought.
“I think there’s some pieces and parts,” he said, “and when we get some pieces and parts doing the right things and playing as hard as you’ve got to play, and understanding what this game’s about at this level, I think we’ll get better. Until that all happens, we’re not going to be as good as we can be.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571