By Brad Locke | NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – Rick Stansbury didn’t pull Jalen Steele aside. No, he told him in front of the whole team what had to happen.
“Hey, Jalen, if we’re going to win this game, we’re going to need you to step up and make shots. Keep shooting,” the Mississippi State coach said.
The No. 18 Bulldogs were trailing Vanderbilt, 39-28, at halftime. They rallied to take the lead, and then Steele made came off the bench and made the lead bigger, burying four 3-pointers in as many tries to build up a 10-point lead.
The sophomore from Knoxville finished with 15 points, all on 3-pointers, in the Bulldogs’ 78-77 overtime win Saturday. He was 1 of 3 in the first half but said he was feeling good about his shot.
“I was talking to (teammate) Baxter Price. He was like, ‘Jalen, it looks like you’re feeling it. That’s what it looks like,’” Steele said. “The coaches said to go out there and keep shooting it. I kept my confidence and kept going out there and shooting it.”
With well over a dozen NBA scouts on hand, MSU forward Arnett Moultrie had a huge game, notching 21 points and 14 rebounds. It was his 11th double-double of the season.
Moultrie shot 7 of 16 from the field and 7 of 9 from the free throw line, and added four steals. He scored MSU’s first five points of the OT period.
“I thought we went to war for Arnett in that overtime,” Stansbury said. “We got Arnett that ball down low several times.”
Renardo Sidney also came up big. He was limited to two minutes in the first half by foul trouble, but he logged 18 minutes the second half, scoring six of his nine points while neutralizing Vanderbilt big man Festus Ezeli. Sidney’s 3-pointer in overtime gave State a 76-74 lead.
Sidney was not made available to the media after the game.
Stansbury could point to several key stats after the game, including turnovers. MSU committed seven the first half, only three the second half.
He also liked the free throw differential: State hit 14 of 21, while Vandy was 5 of 9. After committing a season-high 23 fouls at Ole Miss, MSU had only 11 Saturday.
Also, MSU out-rebounded Vandy, 37-33, and had 12 offensive boards.
Smith in hospital
Backup point guard DeVille Smith missed the game, as he was back in the hospital after experiencing dizziness and headaches.
He was admitted Thursday morning, and it’s not known how long he’ll have to stay.
This is the second time the freshman from Jackson has been hospitalized with these symptoms. He was admitted on Nov. 3 and stayed three days, missing the season opener.