However, it was clear that Kennedy’s decision to match long and lean Terrance Henry against Stansbury’s Mississippi State point guard was a big boost for the Rebels when they ended a five-game losing streak to the rival Bulldogs with a 75-68 win on Jan. 18 at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Dee Bost, a 6-foot-2 senior, had been a thorn in the Rebels’ side before, including in 2011 when he had 25 points and eight assists in the Bulldogs’ 69-64 win at Tad Smith. At 6-9, Henry has a clear edge in height and wingspan.
“I’d like to tell you’ve we’ve figured out the code to beat them …” said Kennedy, leaving the sentence hanging, “but Mississippi State is good. They have good players, and Rick knows what he’s doing.”
In recent weeks, Henry has continued to draw the assignment of the opposition’s toughest perimeter player. Often that’s a point guard against whom he’ll have a significant size advantage and can still keep up athletically.
Against the Bulldogs, it wasn’t as though Bost unraveled and could get nothing done. He still had solid numbers running the floor with six assists and no turnovers.
Henry, though, never let him find his rhythm as a shooter and limited his ability to get inside the lane and find big man Arnett Moultrie, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer.
For Bost, 15 points looks respectable in the end, but eight of those came in the final 42 seconds. Bost never got going when the game was still in doubt. His two 3-pointers in the final 19 seconds helped keep the Bulldogs’ margin of defeat below 10 points.
Henry says Ole Miss and MSU players maintain a friendly rivalry and that when Bost approached him with the basketball on the Bulldogs’ first offensive trip, he did so with a look of surprise that gave way to amusement.
“He got the ball, and he saw me come out to guard him, and he had this smirk on his face like, ‘Really?’ He looked, and I was like, ‘Dang, he disrespected me,’” Henry said.
Then the trash talking began.
“Me and him was just jawing back and forth. Most of the time I was just telling him, ‘I’m not fixing to let you catch the ball. I was telling him, ‘They fixing to play 4-on-4, and you and me fixing to be over here chilling.’”
This time Bost and the Bulldogs have had time to plan for a counter-punch.
“The element of surprise, so to speak, that may have had some effect as it relates to the first few possessions of the game, but in a game of 70 possessions my hope is he just doesn’t make as many shots,” Kennedy said.
In seven games against Ole Miss, Bost has averaged 15.3 points, 5.7 assists and has shot 83.3 percent from the free throw line.
It’s a no-brainer for Henry to draw Bost again tonight. Henry confirmed the matchup Tuesday afternoon without hesitation.
Kennedy, though, continues his praise for Bost, who he calls “a tremendous player” and downplays the significance of any advantage the matchup might create for the Rebels.
“They’ve made some changes since the last time we played. We’ve made some changes since the last time we played.”