By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
– Looking back: MSU bounced back from a meltdown in Auburn and played well against Kentucky on Tuesday, but came up short, 85-79. Returning home, the Bulldogs continued their recent dominance of Ole Miss, earning a 71-58 win for their fifth consecutive victory over the Rebels.
– Looking ahead: MSU returns home Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tip against LSU (10-16, 2-9). State won the first meeting, in Baton Rouge, 58-57. Then it’s back on the road on Saturday to take on Tennessee (16-11, 6-6) in an ESPN game.
– Who’s hot: Ravern Johnson has become quite the sparkplug off the bench. Once a starter who hit a wall when SEC play began, the senior has returned from suspension and revived his game in a reserve role. Last week he averaged 18.5 points while shooting 10 of 17 from the floor, including 7 of 10 from 3-point range.
n Who’s not: Redshirt freshman Shaun Smith, who saw an increased role when Johnson was serving his two-game suspension, has returned to near obscurity. He logged less than a minute at Kentucky and didn’t play at all versus Ole Miss.
– RPI watch: MSU has risen to 130th in the latest RPI rankings, according to RealTimeRPI.com. That’s up 15 spots from this time last week. Looking ahead, LSU is 224th in the country, while Tennessee is 33rd.
– Bottom line: The Bulldogs are again alone in second place in the Western Division, a game ahead of both Ole Miss and Arkansas. State’s beaten the Rebels twice and the Razorbacks once. More encouraging than that was the play of embattled big man Renardo Sidney on Saturday, and if he keeps it up, MSU could finish the regular season with a flourish.