By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – If Mississippi State can just bottle what it did two days ago, maybe it can finally grab hold of that elusive intangible known as momentum.
The No. 20 Bulldogs (19-5, 6-3 SEC) go for their third consecutive win today when Georgia (11-12, 2-7) visits Humphrey Coliseum. It wraps up a three-game homestand for State, which hasn’t won three in a row since before Christmas.
On Thursday night, the Bulldogs beat rival Ole Miss, 70-60, after holding off Auburn, 91-88, last weekend. Thursday’s win was a far better all-around performance, the kind coach Rick Stansbury would love to see more often during this closing stretch of the season.
“This time of year, you’ve got to get at that level,” he said. “It’s hard to maintain it through 30 games, but now you’re down to seven games. Georgia counts the same as Ole Miss, but there’s a great illustration again of the emotion you play with, and that’s the way you’ve got to play down the stretch.”
Point guard Dee Bost said getting on a roll can only happen if MSU sustains a strong defensive effort and keeps its energy level up.
“Against Auburn we gave up too many points, and I don’t think we played with the same emotion. We’ve just got to take this and move forward,” Bost said.
MSU has a really good chance to keep its win streak going against Georgia, a team that has struggled mightily this season. However, those Bulldogs are coming off a 22-point trouncing of Arkansas, a team that defeated MSU earlier this season by 10.
Of course, the winner of both those games had homecourt advantage, which has been a big edge across the league this season. Georgia is 1-6 on the road, including 0-4 in SEC play. MSU is 5-0 in SEC home games.
Georgia hasn’t won in Starkville in 10 years, and MSU has won four of the last five meetings overall.
In beating Arkansas, Georgia shot 52.6 percent – including 45 percent from 3-point range – and got 27 points from senior Gerald Robinson. Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a McDonald’s All-American in high school, had 18 points.
“It was good to have a night like we had the other night,” UGA coach Mark Fox said. “It’s just kept them on course for coming to work every day and getting better. If we stay on that path, we’ll continue to improve, and the only way to stay on that path is to have some success.”
Georgia had lost four in a row prior to beating Arkansas, but Stansbury is very wary of this team. UGA’s point total Wednesday was 21 points above its season average entering that game.
“They shot it from everywhere. Basically blew Arkansas out,” Stansbury said. “So any time you can do that to an Arkansas team – and they’re going to come in here and play loose. They’ve got nothing to lose.”