By Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – My, what a buzzkill.
The anticipated returns of Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney did nothing for a struggling Mississippi State team, which opened SEC play Saturday by suffering a 75-57 loss to Alabama in front of 7,121 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
It’s MSU’s worst loss in an SEC home opener since 1996, when it fell by 18 to Kentucky.
Bost and Sidney both had dead legs by the second half, and neither could find a scoring touch. Bost, making his season debut after missing the first 14 games due to academic and NCAA suspensions, had 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
Sidney, coming off a two-game suspension and making his first appearance at the Hump, managed only two points on 1-of-8 shooting. He had nine rebounds.
For Bost, who had to watch from home as MSU (8-7, 0-1 SEC) dropped four of five during last month’s road trip, a close-up view confirmed what he’s seen all along from this team.
“Once again, like I said, when I was watching from home we didn’t play with heart, and today we didn’t play with heart,” the junior point guard said.
Sidney was not made available to the media because of what a spokesman called a “coach’s decision.”
The 6-foot-10 sophomore, who was playing only his third game of the season, was strong on the defensive end in the first half, limiting JaMychal Green to two points.
But Green, a junior, stepped outside after halftime, hit some jumpers, and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Sidney never could get it rolling offensively, his lone bucket coming on a fallaway late in the first half.
“Just second half couldn’t finish a play, and we went to him over and over and over, and he missed easy plays around that hole,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “That takes the wind out of your sails some, and that’s what happened to us.”
Alabama (9-6, 1-0), which has won four in a row, led 39-37 when the Bulldogs went 7:16 without a field goal, getting outscored 14-1 during the stretch. Bama had switched from a zone defense to man-to-man after halftime.
MSU didn’t shoot well either half, though, making 33.9 percent for the game, including 20.8 percent (5 of 24) from 3-point range.
Leading scorer Ravern Johnson was just 3 of 16 from the field, 2 of 10 from downtown, and finished with eight points.
“We just were stagnant, we didn’t have no movement or nothing,” Bost said.
Kodi Augustus had 11 points and 11 boards for MSU, while Wendell Lewis scored a career-high 10.
Freshman guard Trevor Releford led Alabama with 17 points, while Charvez Davis added 13 and Tony Mitchell 11.
This marks the first time since 2006 that MSU has lost back-to-back home games by double-digits, and a lot has happened since the first one, including the fistfight in Hawaii between Sidney and Elgin Bailey, who’s since left the team.
State lost four of five on a trip to the Bahamas, Hawaii and Las Vegas in December.
“You hope at some point through this season this team catches up to what I think it’s capable of doing,” Stansbury said.