By David Brandt/The Associated Press
STARKVILLE — Dee Bost scored 22 points, Rodney Hood added 19 and No. 17 Mississippi State survived a late scare from Florida Atlantic for a 75-68 victory Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs had a comfortable 39-29 lead at halftime, but the Owls clawed their way back into the game, taking a 55-54 lead on Pablo Bertone’s 3-pointer with 9:22 remaining. Mississippi State fought off the rally, with Bost and Hood scoring a combined 24 second-half points on the way to the team’s ninth straight victory.
Jalen Steele scored 12 points for the Bulldogs and Renardo Sidney added 10.
Raymond Taylor had 20 points for Florida Atlantic (4-6) while Bertone scored 14 and Kore White added 12.
Mississippi State (10-1) was playing without two starters — guard Brian Bryant and forward Arnett Moultrie. Bryant missed a third straight game for a violation of team rules while Moultrie, who averages 17 points and 11 rebounds, missed the game because of knee tendinitis. Moultrie’s absence was the most significant and the Bulldogs obviously missed his production.
The weakened lineup made the game strikingly similar to last year, when a banged-up Mississippi State team lost a stunner to Florida Atlantic 61-59. Bost watched that game from the sidelines because he was suspended after failing to pull his name out of the NBA draft by the deadline.
But the Bulldogs seemed in control of this one early, taking a 39-29 halftime lead. Hood had 10 points while Steele and Bost added seven each.
Florida Atlantic made its move early in the second half, quickly closing the gap to 41-39 on Greg Gantt’s 3-pointer with 17:23 remaining. The Owls took a 60-58 lead on Taylor’s 3-pointer with 6:50 remaining. The 5-foot-6 Taylor was tough on the Bulldogs all night, shooting 7 of 13 from the field including 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
That’s when Bost and Hood took over. Bost hit shots from all over the court, including 3-pointers, layups on fast breaks and free throws. And when he seemed to tire, it was Hood who was clutch with a few mid-range jumpers that kept the Owls at arm’s length.
Hood finished with his first career double-double, adding 10 rebounds. He shot 8 of 14 from the field.
Mississippi State ended its six-game homestand undefeated, but now hits a harder part of its schedule. The Bulldogs play a road game against Detroit on Saturday before a neutral-court game against Northwestern State in Jackson, Miss., on Dec. 22. Then there’s a showdown with No. 6 Baylor on Dec. 28 in Dallas.
Read more in Wednesday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.