By Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal
ATHENS, Ga. – If this was indeed a measuring stick, then Mississippi State has miles to go.
Despite confidence from two consecutive wins and nearly a full week of preparation, the Bulldogs were throttled by Georgia on Saturday, 86-64, at Stegeman Coliseum.
It was the first of three consecutive tests against strong SEC Eastern Division opponents, and it didn’t bode well for the rest of this stretch.
“We didn’t measure very good today then,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “It ain’t no measuring stick game for me, you guys talk about that. … I know how good Georgia is and how good the rest of them are. There’s no easy games.”
Georgia got hot early and never cooled off, shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 57.9 percent (11 of 19) from 3-point range. More disturbing to Stansbury, though, was the rebounding margin: 48-23 in Georgia’s favor, and 17 of the home Bulldogs’ boards were on the offensive end.
That led to 14 second-chance points.
“That’s embarrassing,” guard Dee Bost said. “Our bigs are down there battling, and it’s up to us guards to get down there and battle with them. The guards have got to go down there and scrap with them.”
MSU (10-8, 2-2 SEC) threw zone and man defenses at Georgia (14-4, 3-2) to no avail. As is so often the case, guard Travis Leslie was the most active player, scoring 17 points to go with six rebounds for Georgia. Guard Gerald Robinson also scored 17.
On the inside, Trey Thompkins had 15 points and seven rebounds. MSU’s post starters, Renardo Sidney and Kodi Augustus, both fouled out and were ineffective for most of the game.
Sidney finished with 15 points, but he had just four at halftime. Augustus scored eight.
“They just out-worked us, no excuses,” said Augustus, who sat out the final 8:30 of the first half because of foul trouble.
Georgia raced out to an 11-2 lead and led by as many as 19 points in the first half, hitting 10 of 13 field goals to start the game. MSU trimmed the deficit to 11 points, but the home Bulldogs took a 42-29 lead into halftime.
From the 14-minute, 23-second mark of the first half on, Georgia’s lead never dipped into single digits.
It was more of the same in the second half, as Georgia opened up a 59-40 lead without having to make a jump shot. Not that the outside touch was lost, as Georgia hit 5 of 9 from behind the arc in the second half.
“When we shoot the ball, we shoot with confidence regardless of how many times we shoot,” said Thompkins, who made a pair of 3-pointers.
The lead got as large as 25 points. An MSU rally never materialized despite the best efforts of Bost, who had a game-high five steals.
“I just didn’t think we competed consistently the way you’ve got to compete and fight on the road against a quality team like them,” Stansbury said. “You can’t take possessions off, man. We got down early, they hit us in the mouth that first three-and-a-half, four minutes, and I didn’t think we responded the way you’ve got to respond from every position.”
Bost led State with 20 points, and Ravern Johnson had 13. But Johnson didn’t make his first 3-pointer until the second half and was 5 of 15 from the floor.
MSU shot 41.5 percent from the field, including 29.2 percent (7 of 24) from behind the arc.
Up next for the Bulldogs are home games against Vanderbilt on Thursday and Florida two days after that. Augustus, for one, is eager to move on.
“You’ve got to put it behind you and move on to the next game, get ready for our next game. You can’t be dwelling on losses like that.”
n Game summary, Page 2C