MSU's Steele gets in the zone

By Brad Locke | NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – When a shooter gets hot, it’s often said he’s unconscious. That was sort of true for Jalen Steele on Saturday.
In Mississippi State’s 78-77 overtime win at Vanderbilt, Steele knocked down four consecutive 3-pointers during a key stretch of the second half. He finished the game 5 of 8 from downtown.
“Every time I shot it, it felt like I was blacking out,” Steele said Monday. “It was just like, forget about this shot, shoot the next one.”
The sophomore’s hot streak was a welcome sight for an MSU squad that had been struggling from 3-point range in SEC play. Steele is still sporting a brace on his left knee, a reminder of the torn ACL he suffered late last season.
He said he’s about 95 percent healthy, but a better player than he was pre-injury.
“Actually it feels like the game is easier now this year,” Steele said. “The injury kind of set me back, but now I can see the floor more and see what I can do and what I can’t do, and it’s making the game slow down more for me.”
Steele has come off the bench the last two games after being a starter the previous 10 contests, and it seems to be working. If he can keep shooting this well, it gives MSU the kind of extra scoring punch it needs from a thin bench.
For the season, Steele is shooting 34.5 percent from 3-point range.
“I’ve always said that Jalen is the one guy that does something different on this basketball team,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “He is capable of doing what he did, jump up and make shots. He’s the one guy, if you ask me what his role is, it is to make shots.”
Smith, Sidney updates
Stansbury has no timeline for when freshman guard DeVille Smith might be released from the hospital, but he will not be available for at least the next two games, against LSU and Florida. Smith was admitted Friday after experiencing dizziness, headaches and memory loss.
“It’s something that I don’t know if they can ever figure out for sure what causes it,” Stansbury said. “We’ll just play it by ear and see where it goes from here.”
Forward Renardo Sidney is ailing, too, having hurt his knee late in the Vandy game. Stansbury said there was “some soreness with it,” and he would know more once he got to see Sidney in practice Monday.
Moultrie’s mini-slump
MSU has improved its free throw shooting in SEC play, making 75.3 percent. It made 69 percent in non-conference play.
The irony of it is the Bulldogs have gotten better while top free throw shooter Arnett Moultrie has regressed. After making 86.6 percent in non-SEC games, the junior forward has hit just 68.2 percent against league foes (15 of 22).
“It’s just a mini-slump that I had to adjust to,” Moultrie said. “I think I’m thinking too much about it when I’m at the line.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com