By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – No. 20 Mississippi State could not summon up the gumption required to dispatch a cellar-dwelling SEC foe at home.
And after the 70-68 overtime loss to Georgia on Saturday, the only explanation coach Rick Stansbury or his players could offer was a dearth of energy and emotion.
“We didn’t bring it,” said a dejected Dee Bost, “so that’s what we get.”
The Bulldogs (19-6, 6-4 SEC) suffered their first SEC home loss, although there have been scares, most recently from Auburn a week earlier. It was the first SEC road win for Georgia (12-12, 3-7), and marked the first time this season an SEC team beat a ranked foe on the road in league play.
State was coming off a 10-point win over rival Ole Miss at home on Thursday, so perhaps there was little energy or emotion left to spare.
Coach Rick Stansbury admitted that playing a team with Georgia’s record “don’t stir that much up inside of you. But at the same time, you’ve got to understand, they’re a good team. But that’s hard sometimes for everybody to really understand that.”
Statistically, Georgia has not been a good team, especially when it comes to outside shooting and offensive rebounding. The visiting Bulldogs excelled at both, making 11 of 26 from 3-point range and snagging 18 offensive rebounds.
Except for a 7-minute field goal drought in the second half, MSU kept up offensively. It made 46 percent of its shots, including 8 of 23 from behind the arc. And State had its chances.
After Gerald Robinson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw with 8.6 seconds left in overtime, Bost raced downcourt and put up an off-balance 3-pointer, which hit nothing but air.
Bost finished with a game-high 21 points, but Robinson was the difference-maker late. His driving layup with 28 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 59-59, and MSU couldn’t convert at the other end, as Jalen Steele missed a 3-pointer.
Robinson scored Georgia’s first six points of OT. His steal and dunk gave UGA a 65-63 lead with 1:48 to go. After Steele buried a three, Kentavious Caldwell-Pople answered with his own for a 68-66 lead.
Robinson’s two free throws with 25.7 seconds made it a 70-66 lead.
“He controlled our possessions really good,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “He had a huge steal in the overtime, and he made two big free throws, and those were two big senior plays.”
Caldwell-Pope scored 20 to lead Georgia, while Robinson had 13. UGA has now won two in a row, having defeated Arkansas on Wednesday by 22 points.
For State, Steele scored 15, while Arnett Moultrie had 12 and was held to six rebounds, five below his average. Renardo Sidney recorded his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 boards.
Moultrie said energy level wasn’t a problem for him, and when asked to explain how MSU lost, he said, “No explanation.”
Fox, however, sensed a lack of energy from the Bulldogs, and in fact was hoping for it, which is why he had his team push the tempo.
“Nowhere in that game did I ever feel like we ever got that emotion and energy at the level it has to be at any time in that game,” Stansbury said. “If you don’t do that in this league every night, that’s what can happen.”
MSU hits the road Tuesday to take on LSU.