’Dogs vs. ’Cats – MSU rides three-game skid into clash with No. 1

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – When Dee Bost was asked what’s been ailing Mississippi State of late, the senior point guard paused for a moment.
Then he said, “I don’t know. You ask coach Stansbury that? I don’t know. He might know, but right now don’t nobody know.”
Rick Stansbury, who addressed the media after Bost did on Monday, reiterated that the main issue during the Bulldogs’ current three-game losing streak has been “one play here or there.” Two losses were in overtime, and then a close game late turned into a 10-point loss at Auburn on Saturday.
Whatever the problem, MSU (19-8, 6-6 SEC) can’t afford more of it tonight. No. 1 Kentucky will visit Humphrey Coliseum for an 8 p.m. game on ESPN. The Wildcats (26-1, 12-0) have won 18 in a row and are expected to contend for a national championship.
MSU is just trying to keep itself in the NCAA tournament discussion.
“For us to beat Kentucky, we have to have everybody clicking. You can’t have one cylinder at its best,” Stansbury said. “We probably have to get a little squirt of ether along the way to even make it a little better.”
Kentucky boasts perhaps the nation’s largest stable of young talent. Its starting lineup is composed of three freshmen and two sophomores, including 6-foot-10 forward Anthony Davis, who might pose the biggest challenge.
Davis is averaging 13.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game.
“He changes the game more than any one player in a long time,” Stansbury said. “I’ve never seen anybody change the game in so many different ways around that rim offensively and his defensive abilities.”
The task of guarding Davis will fall to Renardo Sidney – assuming he’s available. The 6-10 junior missed Saturday’s game due to major back spasms, and Stansbury said whether he’ll play will be a game-time decision.
Bost, however, is fully expecting Sidney to play.
“He said right after the (Auburn) game, no matter what, he was going to play,” Bost said. “So he’s playing.”
Off target
With or without Sidney, MSU needs its backcourt to have a strong night. The Bulldogs shot just 5 of 22 from 3-point range at Auburn, with Bost hitting 1 of 6. State has made just 30.2 percent (19 of 63) from behind the arc during its losing streak.
Kentucky leads the SEC in scoring defense and is fourth in 3-point field goal percentage defense. But perhaps in front of a sold-out home crowd, and with an NCAA bid far from guaranteed, the Bulldogs can find a way to pull the upset.
“On the bus coming back from Auburn, Dee and the rest of the leaders were telling us we’re the underdogs and we’ve just got to come out fighting, come out swinging, no matter what the outcome is,” freshman Rodney Hood said. “We’ve got to come out swinging and just put forth the effort we need to win.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com