By David Brandt/The Associated Press
STARKVILLE — Dee Bost scored 23 points, Arnett Moultrie added 13 points and 10 rebounds and Mississippi State beat Eastern Kentucky 76-66 on Monday night in the opening round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.
Mississippi State (1-0) led nearly the entire game, but Eastern Kentucky (0-1) kept it close throughout. The Colonels pulled within 74-68 with 32.9 seconds remaining on Eric Stutz’s putback, but got no closer. Bost ended the game with a thunderous slam after a steal and breakaway.
Bost shot 7 of 15 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range. He added six rebounds, six assists and two steals. He also played tight defense on Eastern Kentucky’s Mike DiNunno, who scored 10 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field.
Despite the stellar all-around game, Bost was disappointed he had five turnovers.
“I turned the ball over too much, so I had to do something to make up for it,” Bost said. “We knew they could shoot the 3, so I wanted to force them into some shots they didn’t want to take.”
Moultrie finished with a double-double in his first game with the Bulldogs after sitting out a season following his transfer from Texas-El Paso. It was the first opening game double-double for a Mississippi State player since Lawrence Roberts in 2003.
Freshman Rodney Hood added 12 points in the first game of his college career.
“That’s pretty good stats from a freshman,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “I’ll take that from a junior even. Rodney is beyond his years in his mental readiness. It’s just going to take some time on the physical side to get him caught up.”
Mississippi State jumped out to an early 20-8 lead, but Stansbury said his team relaxed and that allowed the Colonels to climb back into the game. Eastern Kentucky used a myriad of defensive looks that kept the Bulldogs off-balance.
Mississippi State returns the bulk of its scoring and rebounding from a season ago when it finished with a 17-14 record. Stansbury said the team’s opening game was far from perfect, but he was encouraged.
“It’s just a learning experience,” Stansbury said. “From a learning standpoint, you’ll see other teams with better players on the inside, but from a style sense, you don’t see a team that plays a more difficult style than they do.”
Joshua Jones led Eastern Kentucky with 13 points. Timmy Knipp scored 12 points while Stutz added 11.
Mississippi State outrebounded the Colonels 43-29. The Bulldogs used just seven players.
“Our whole mentality coming into this game was to guard them differently every trip,” Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer said. “For us to beat a team of this caliber, we have to execute our system really, really well. We had three new players and hopefully next week and next month we’ll be much better schematically.”
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