By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State was again short-handed, but this time it didn’t come up short.
The No. 17-ranked Bulldogs held off a pesky Florida Atlantic team to take a 75-68 victory at Humphrey Coliseum on Tuesday night. It was just over a year ago that FAU came in to Starkville and beat the Bulldogs, who at the time were without suspended players Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney.
Bost and Sidney played Tuesday, but Arnett Moultrie (knee tendinitis) and Brian Bryant, who’s serving the final game of a three-game suspension, were on the bench.
It was Bost and freshman Rodney Hood making the big plays down the stretch for MSU (10-1), which has now won nine in a row. Bost finished with 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting, while Hood had 19 points and 10 rebounds playing the entire 40 minutes.
“Just took over,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said of that duo. “Those two guys weren’t going to let us lose.”
FAU took its first lead of the night on Pablo Bertone’s 3-pointer at the 9-minute, 20-second mark of the second half, making it 55-54.
Bost’s 3-pointer gave MSU a 61-60 lead with 6:15 to go, and the Bulldogs clung to a tight margin thanks to a couple of buckets by Hood. Bost stole an inbounds pass and drove down for a layup and 69-64 lead with 2:36 left.
One of many big 3-pointers by 5-foot-6 guard Raymond Taylor cut MSU’s lead to 69-67 with 1:23 left, but Bost made a layup, and he and Jalen Steele hit free throws to seal it.
“I know Dee was getting tired with the guards pressing him the whole game,” said Hood, “so I had to take it upon myself to make a smart play, get in the lane, and make something happen.”
Taylor finished with a team-high 20 points off the bench. FAU (4-6) shot 9 of 20 from 3-point range, while State hit 4 of 16 three days after tying a school record with 16 threes.
MSU was hindered even more when big man Renardo Sidney got in foul trouble. He played six minutes in the first half, 20 total, and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
“You’re just trying to duct-tape it together and get through tonight with a win,” Stansbury said.
MSU led by 13 early and was up 39-29 at halftime.