Bulldogs, Rebels eye first SEC win

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – The record is there for all to see, the struggles of a preseason division favorite obvious, the internal bickering a holiday television event that rivaled “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Certainly, for Mississippi State right now, it isn’t.
But things have a way of changing over the course of a 16-game SEC basketball season, and two big roster additions could be the impetus for change for the Bulldogs.
The fact that it didn’t start out that way last Saturday when senior guard Dee Bost and heralded signee Renardo Sidney took the home floor together for the first time matters not to Ole Miss guard Chris Warren.
The Bulldogs are only 8-7, 0-1 in the SEC, but Warren is a senior and has a keen respect for what he’s seen from MSU.
Tipoff is 8 tonight at Tad Smith Coliseum, and the game will be televised by ESPN2. Ole Miss is 12-4, 0-1 in the league after a 77-71 loss at Florida.
“I’m not going to overestimate anyone, I’m not going to underestimate anyone. We are just going to come out and play, and the better team will win,” Warren said.
In his first game back from an NCAA-mandated suspension, Bost was just 5 for 16 from the floor, 1 for 6 from 3-point range in the Bulldogs’ 75-57 SEC-opening loss to Alabama.
Sidney, in the third game of his college career, his first in the SEC, was 1 for 8 from the floor for two points.
Sidney survived the aftermath of his Dec. 23 fight against former teammate Elgin Bailey and is the focal point of an MSU frontcourt that became thinner with Bailey’s departure. Due to suspensions, Sidney will be playing back-to-back games for the first time.
“I don’t know anything about him, haven’t seen him,” Ole Miss forward Reggie Buckner said earlier this week.
Through the magic and wonder of video, that has surely changed now.
Bost stopped short of calling Sidney’s SEC debut a dud, but a certain level of expectation is clear.
“We expect a lot. He should do a lot more than what he did last game,” Bost said.
Though he and Sidney will be part of the Bulldogs’ structure for only the second game, Bost believes chemistry will be better than it was against Alabama and will continue to improve.
“We still are probably looking for it, but it should be better than what it was. Saturday was just embarrassing.”
In addition to his own eye-witness accounts, Warren knows he’s facing an MSU program that has won on the road. Since 1999, MSU has the SEC’s fourth-highest percentage of conference road wins, though it’s only 35.4.
One of those was last January when the Bulldogs won 80-75 in Oxford, the first half of a regular-season sweep of the Rebels. The Bulldogs, in fact, have won five of the last 10 times they’ve played at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Tonight’s game features two of the top three scorers in the SEC. Warren is third in the league with 18.6 points a game, MSU’s Ravern Johnson leads at 19.2.
Warren doesn’t get caught up in the past or in the numbers of the present. The fact that he’s playing the in-state rival doesn’t stoke his fire, except as it relates to his goal for the season.
“It’s a big game regardless, because of what we’re trying to do, where we’re trying to go,” he said. “It’s going to be a big win anyway, even though they’re our rivals, because we still need this game for an NCAA bid.”

Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@journalinc.com.