By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss guard Eniel Polynice has a special request for Rebels coach Andy Kennedy this week.
He wants a shot at Dee Bost.
“A lot of different guys will be on him, but I’m going to talk and try to get the first assignment rather than spot stuff. I would take that as a challenge,” Polynice said.
Terrico White got the first shot at Bost in this season’s first meeting. Bost scored 25 points and had six assists when MSU won 80-75 in Oxford in the SEC opener on Jan. 9.
The rematch is Thursday at 8 p.m. in Starkville, and the game will be televised on ESPN.
White and Polynice are both 6-foot-5, giving them a height advantage over the 6-2 Bost.
Bost was able to beat the pressure and push the ball up the court. Much of his success came at the free throw line where he was 9 for 12.
“Our biggest issue was guarding Bost in the open floor,” Kennedy said. “His ball speed … we have to contain him in the open floor. They were struggling a little bit offensively, and he allowed them to stay in the game by getting to the foul line. The biggest thing is stopping him in transition.”
The Bulldogs were 22 for 33 from the free throw line in Oxford, the second-most attempts by an Ole Miss opponent this season.
Bost sustained a wrist injury late against Vanderbilt last Wednesday. He played 35 minutes against Florida but was just 2 for 6 shooting for five points. He also had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 9-to-2.
Kennedy would not commit to giving Polynice first crack at Bost Thursday.
“We’ll see how the matchups line up. Most everyone will have a shot. EP has good size, and even though he’s not as athletic as Terrico, he has an ability with his defensive prowess to give people problems. He did a very good job on (Mikhail) Torrance (against Alabama). I’m sure he’ll have his fair share against Bost.”
Seeking the Century Mark
- Kennedy’s next win will be his 100th as a head coach. He was 21-13 as interim head coach at Cincinnati in 2005-2006 and is 78-45 at Ole Miss.
He posted 61 wins in his first three seasons at Ole Miss, the second-most wins by any coach in a three-year span at the school.
The Rebels and Bulldogs have split the series each of his first three seasons. Kennedy is 3-4 against MSU.
‘A few more plays’
- After a 3-0 start, Mississippi State has lost four of its last five, the win sandwiched between is a 67-51 home decision against struggling LSU.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury said he believes the Bulldogs can right the ship as long as they remain consistent on defense and fix some things on offense.
“Defensively, we’ve been pretty good every night,” Stansbury said. “Offensively, we haven’t always been that way. Our challenge is this, can you maintain all that for 40 minutes? That’s where our problems lie and when you go to fix it, you have problems.
“We’ve had games that under 30 seconds to go, it’s a one-possession game on the road. That’s what a fine line it is. I can’t change a lot. I just have to find a way in that 40 minutes to get us a few more plays for what we’ve got.”
MSU remains one of the league’s top defensive teams.
The Bulldogs are first in scoring defense (62.0 ppg), field goals defense (37.0 percent), first in blocked shots (8.2 bpg) and second in rebounding margin (plus-5.2) in all games.
The numbers dip slightly against the SEC where MSU is third in scoring defense (69.5 ppg) and third in field goal defense (39.5 percent).
The Bulldogs have had trouble on the boards in the league with a rebound margin of minus-1.0 ranking sixth.
Varnado’s blocks watch
- Mississippi State senior center Jarvis Varnado blocked only one shot at Florida onSaturday but still averages five blocks for the week, because he got nine at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Varnado has 116 blocks for year, easily the most in the SEC and the second-most in the nation. He needs 26 blocks to pass 7-footer Wojciech Mydra, who posted 535 blocked shots from 1998-2002 at Louisiana-Monroe.
Currently second on the NCAA career list with 510, Varnado has already become the first player in NCAA history to amass 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 500 blocked shots for his career.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.