By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Arnett Moultrie and Mississippi State have made a mark on the national scene this season. Today, they can make a splash.
Moultrie, the 6-foot-11 forward, will lead the No. 15-ranked Bulldogs (12-1) into the American Airlines Arena in Dallas for an 8 p.m. showdown against No. 6 Baylor (12-0). The UTEP transfer will face probably his toughest test to date in the form of 6-11 sophomore Perry Jones III.
Jones was named the Big 12 preseason player of the year by league coaches, and he’s averaging 14.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He’s a lot like Moultrie: Long, athletic, with a well-rounded game.
But Moultrie doesn’t see many similarities.
“We’re just two different players. When I watch him play, I don’t see nothing like me,” Moultrie said.
Nevertheless, he should give MSU a good matchup against Jones.
“I don’t know if anybody says you have a good matchup against Jones,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “… I guess if you want to have a guy that has a chance to match up – that can guard on the perimeter some, that can run and guard on the block some – it’s Arnett.”
Moultrie, who sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules, has become a dominant frontcourt presence. He’s fourth in the SEC in scoring (17.8 ppg) and first in rebounding (11.7). He’s coming off a 24-point, 14-rebound showing against Northwestern State on Thursday – his seventh double-double of the season.
Playing for respect
He’s eager for a chance to prove himself further against Jones, but he’s more concerned with MSU earning some respect.
“We didn’t get a lot of national attention that we’re supposed to get, don’t get enough respect right now,” Moultrie said. “We’re still playing with this chip on our shoulder, and we’re continuing to play hard, and we’re ready to go and show everybody what we’re capable of doing.”
The post matchup will go a long way in determining who wins tonight’s game. Both teams rebound well: Baylor averages 39.3 per game to MSU’s 39.0.
The Bears were out-rebounded in their last game, an 83-81 overtime win against West Virginia on Friday. Jones was held to four points but grabbed 10 rebounds.
MSU defeated West Virginia on Dec. 3, 75-62. The Mountaineers are a big, physical team and out-rebounded MSU by five.
It would help State if 6-10 forward Renardo Sidney is available. He’s been listed as day-to-day with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee.
Baylor is tough to handle in the backcourt, too. Point guard Pierre Jackson, the 2011 NJCAA national player of the year, is off to a good start and will be matched up with Dee Bost and DeVille Smith.
This is technically a neutral-court game – Baylor is located in Waco – but it might as well be a road game for State. The Bulldogs have done well away from Humphrey Coliseum, beating two ranked teams in New York City and taking down Detroit on the road.
“This is a different kind of stage,” Stansbury said. “This will be, no question, our most difficult challenge of the year, playing Baylor.”