By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Mississippi State’s two new additions made the big plays, and the downtrodden Bulldogs defeated Ole Miss 69-64 before a Tad Smith Coliseum crowd of 8,407 Thursday night.
In a shootout of All-SEC caliber guards, MSU’s Dee Bost, in only his second game back from suspension, had 25 points, as did Ole Miss senior Chris Warren.
The difference became the frontcourt, and that’s where Renardo Sidney, also in his second game since a suspension, gave the Bulldogs the edge.
Sidney was 9 for 12 from the floor and finished with 24 points.
“Our stretch has been well-documented, basically all season what we’ve had to go through,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “For these guys to stay together and keep believing. It’s not easy. If there’s every a teaching point in life, there it is.”
The Bulldogs (9-7, 1-1 SEC) took the lead for good on two Bost free throws with 2 minutes, 38 seconds to play.
As hot as Warren was, he didn’t get off the crucial shots late. With the Rebels (12-5, 0-2) trailing with under 2 minutes to play, Zach Graham, the team’s second-leading scorer was way shot on a 3-point attempt from the right side and again from the key.
Graham had 13 points, all in the first half.
Ole Miss was down 67-66 and rebounded a Bost miss from deep with 35 seconds left. After a timeout with 30 seconds to play, sophomore Nick Williams shot an air ball from the corner opposite the Rebels’ bench.
“We tried to overload one side of it. I thought he had a step-in shot that SEC players need to make,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
On a night that Warren became the school’s career 3-point leader, he was 7 for 14 behind the arc.
Ole Miss attempted a school-record 35 3-point shots but hit just 34.8 percent from the floor, 34.3 percent from the arc.
MSU shot 57.1 percent in the second half.
“We get 20 more shots but have the same number of field goals. That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s the first time we’ve been out-rebounded in a month. It was a pathetic effort on our part starting with me,” Kennedy said.
Both teams went heavy with zone defense in the first half, MSU perhaps by design, Ole Miss because of foul trouble.
It was more zone than Stansbury likes to play, but he says he’s adapting to what his team can do in the present.
“We have to do things that give us a chance where we are. We were able to rest him in that zone, and he was fresher on the offensive end,” Stansbury said.
The Rebels got decent looks against the Bulldogs’ defense but couldn’t knock down shots from close in.
They did, however, get enough 3-point shots to fall, three each from Warren and Graham, enough for a 34-32 halftime lead that would have been larger had Bost not hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Ole Miss was without one of its top frontcourt attackers for most of the first half. Reggie Buckner averaged 8.3 points and 9.7 rebounds over his last six games but picked up his second foul less than four minutes into the game and went to the bench not to return.
Buckner played just 15 minutes for the game.
MSU’s Ravern Johnson, the SEC’s leading scorer at 19.2 points a game, had just six points,
MSU won at Tad Smith for the sixth time in the last 11 meetings here.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600