By Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State is out of sorts, and it seems only one player can change that.
But right now, Dee Bost is out of sorts. After sitting out the first 14 games of the season because of academic and NCAA suspensions, he was clearly not his old self in MSU’s 75-57 loss to Alabama on Saturday.
“Not that he was trying to do too much, not that he was just turning the ball over, it’s just he had no rhythm,” coach Rick Stansbury said Monday. “From early in that basketball game, his lift wasn’t the same, his quickness wasn’t the same.”
In that game, Bost shot 5 of 16 and scored 14 points to go with five assists and three turnovers. He and the other Bulldog guards had trouble keeping up with Alabama freshman Trevor Releford, who scored a game-high 17 points.
Now, MSU (8-7, 0-1 SEC) turns its focus to Thursday’s matchup at Ole Miss (8 p.m., ESPN2). The Rebels (12-4, 0-1) will certainly give Bost no quarter, but Stansbury expects some degree of improvement from his point man.
“I think his rhythm will come quicker, because I think mentally now, the next game he plays, he shouldn’t have quite as many mental adjustments about playing,” Stansbury said. “Physically it’ll still be a challenge for him. When that physical challenge is not there any more, I don’t know.”
The better Bost performs, the better the Bulldogs will perform. That’s Stansbury’s theory, anyway.
And he needs more from leading scorer Ravern Johnson (19.2 points per game), who was slowed by illness during last month’s forgettable road trip but continued to struggle Saturday, hitting just 3 of 16 shots (2 of 10 from 3-point range).
“I think getting back now, finding his rhythm, no question when Dee gets his rhythm, he’s going to help create some open shots for him and do some things differently,” the coach said. “I think right now we’re just kind of in between both.”
On the road again
• Thursday will be MSU’s first SEC road game and comes a little more than two weeks after it returned from a five-game swing that took it to the Bahamas, Hawaii and Las Vegas.
State went 1-4 on that trip, which was marked by the fight between Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey, who has since left the program. Stansbury, frankly, doesn’t want to talk about it.
“I try to forget that road trip, OK? There’s nothing I want to look back on that road trip about. There wasn’t anything positive from it, there wasn’t anything positive from that road trip. Anything that happened, nothing was good.
“We’re trying to put that behind us.”
The road ahead is something MSU must navigate much more nimbly than it has so far.
“We’ve got to learn on the fly here a little bit,” Stansbury said. “And unfortunately, going on the road, it’s never easy to learn as it is when you’re playing some home games. But it’s just where our season is, and it’s where we’re at with our personnel and our team right now.”
• MSU hasn’t started 0-2 in SEC play since 2003, when it started 0-3 but still won the Western Division title with a 9-7 mark. … Johnson is 19th on the school’s career scoring list with 1,237 points, just ahead of Erick Dampier. … MSU shot a season-worst 50 percent (10 of 20) from the free throw line against Alabama. For the season, State has made 69.4 percent of its free throws, fifth in the SEC.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571or firstname.lastname@example.org