By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Arnett Moultrie hopes for a better showing in his second go at Ole Miss. So does his team.
It’s been a big season for Moultrie, the junior forward for No. 20 Mississippi State (18-5, 5-3 SEC). He’s averaging 17.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. He’s a finalist for both the Wooden Award and Oscar Robertson Trophy.
But last time State played Ole Miss (14-8, 4-4), the 6-foot-11 Moultrie scored just 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting. The star of that game – a 75-68 Rebel win in Oxford – was Reggie Buckner, who had a career game: 19 points, 15 rebounds.
The teams meet again tonight at 6, and the game will be on ESPN2.
While Buckner, a 6-9 junior, was not Moultrie’s defensive responsibility, Moultrie said that “by him having a good game, it still came out that he out-played me. So my focus this game is to make sure he doesn’t have a good game or out-play me.”
So that’s one lesson Moultrie and the Bulldogs can take from the first meeting: Keep Buckner off the glass. That onus falls mainly on Renardo Sidney, but there are other Rebels like Murphy Holloway and Demarco Cox who can mix it up inside.
“Just (have to) box him out a little bit more,” Moultrie said of Buckner. “He had way too many offensive rebounds. I think that’s why they outscored us in the paint. That’s pretty much how they won the game, so that’s pretty much the focus of this game.”
In that first meeting, Buckner had five offensive boards, and Ole Miss scored 11 second-chance points. Moultrie, who often thrives on the offensive glass, was held to two offensive rebounds, and State had just five second-chance points.
The Rebels out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 38-35.
“For this team to have a chance to be successful, we have to win that category night in and night out,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “It’s one of the strengths of our team. We knew coming into the year that it needed to be. We’re ineffective in other areas, and we play a possessions game.”
The Rebels also got to the free throw line, and while they didn’t shoot it very well – 17 of 30 – it illustrated just how much they had their way with MSU. The 23 fouls State committed that night remains its season high.
Another big stat that game was MSU’s 29 shots from 3-point range – it hit just 10, and Ole Miss seemed content to let the Bulldogs keep misfiring.
That strategy might not work this time. In its four games since losing to the Rebs, MSU has shot 49.3 percent from 3-point range. That charge has been led by sophomore Jalen Steele, who’s made 14 of 24 during that span.
“If they’re going to play us like that again, me and (Rodney) Hood are going to take advantage of that this time,” Steele said. “We’re just going to drive and kick most of the time if they play that zone, and basically this time we’re definitely going to knock down 3-point shots when we’re open.”
For updates on tonight’s game