Mississippi State trumped the Trojans at their own game, out-gunning the nation’s top three-point scoring squad with 16 treys. In the process the Bulldogs (9-1) extended their win streak to eight, while Troy (4-4) had a three-game string snapped. It was also the ninth MSU win in as many of these inter-league meetings.
“Yeah, it was a lot of fun,” said senior guard Dee Bost, who combined with fellow backcourt starter Jalen Steele for 12 of State’s longballs. Which coincidentally matched what Troy’s NCAA-leading average treys-per-game. The blowout came two years and five days after State’s most recent 100-point production, a December 2009 win over St. Bonaventure when those Bulldogs also hit 16 longballs.
“When you jump and make shots, it makes it pretty easy,” Coach Rick Stansbury said. “We didn’t go into this game thinking it would be like this, honestly. We thought it would be a knock-down, drag-out the way they can shoot the ball.”
Troy can shoot the ball, and does. They threw up 35 trey-tries before the final horn, but managed to make just eight of them compared to MSU’s 16-of-31 accuracy from the arc. “We’re supposed to be the three-point shooting team,” Coach Don Maestri quipped. Yes, the 30-year Trojan coach and one-time Mississippi State managed a sense of humor after the lopsided loss.
“Two good things about this game,” he said. “The first ten minutes of the second half, and the fact that it’s over.”
That ten-minute mark was when State made its fourth trey of the day, coming—ironically—from forward Rodney Hood, whose father Rickey had played when Maestri was on the MSU staff. It was at that point the Bulldogs, who could almost certainly have dominated things with a straightforward post-approach, just let it fly from longer ranges.
And hit. “It was one of those days,” said Stansbury of his team’s 52% outside shooting, not too far behind the overall rate of 56%. “Believe it or not Troy has been playing awful well.”
But playing short, with a four-guard lineup suitable to lots of long shots but not much in the way of post power. So while Bost (28) and Steele (15) were lighting it up from the arc, forward Arnett Moultrie was unstoppable closer to the goal. He hit 9-of-14 shots for 20 points and got a dozen rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season.
“My eyes kind of lit up when they told me how small they were,” Moultrie said. For good measure he was credited with five assists. In fact State tallied 30 scoring passes, seventh-most in program history.
“That comes from one pass making a three-point shot,” said Stansbury. “I thought we did a great job getting the ball on the baseline, collapsing that zone and skipping it out to the wing for shots.”
One of those came from center Renardo Sidney who made a trey too, while finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. The entire starting squad scored double-digits as Hood had a dozen markers and half-as-many assists. “Without a turnover,” Stansbury noted. Only 13 points came from the Bulldog bench, which was short a member as guard Brian Bryant sat out the second of his four games’ suspension.
Three Trojan starters managed double-digits led by guard Emil Jones with 15. Jones had three treys in eight tries, but the rest of the lineup struggled to find the range.
“I thought our guys did a terrific job guarding that three point shot, particularly in that motion,” Stansbury said. “They got them in transition. Defensively we took away their strength.”
Not that either side looked so stout initially. Through three minutes the teams had combined for six turnovers and as many misses, with a 8-8 scoreboard at the 15:00 mark. That was when Steele and Bost stuck threes over the Trojan zone for the first bit of margin.
More came at 8:47 after Sidney earned a technical responding badly to being fouled. It spurred the big center into hitting his three and driving for a dunk. “You always have that stretch something sparks the team,” said Bost. “But we knew they weren’t going to go away, so we felt we had to keep turning it up.”
Which the Dogs did. As Troy tightened the zone on Moultrie guard Deville Smith hit one trey, Steele slung in a couple more, and Moultrie converted a three-point classic style for the 54-26 halftime margin.
“We weren’t playing well to begin with,” Maestri said. “I think we were a little nervous, over-anxious. When you’re playing a team better than you, you have to play early with confidence. We had a few wide-open shots early that were less wide-open as Mississippi State got the lead.”
Bost really heated up in the new half with fourth and fifth longballs for a 85-51 difference, and it fell to Sidney to break the hundred with his dunk at 5:10. Had Stansbury not substituted liberally from there the three-point record would have surely been surpassed, and maybe even the points record.
Outside offense aside, “We got it inside enough,” Stansbury said. “So it was a pretty efficient game at both ends.” Though, the coach couldn’t have been satisfied how the Trojans ended up tied in rebounds at 46 each. The Troy coach had a perspective that would have made Stansbury happier.
Because, as Maestri noted, the last time his team was beaten this badly by a Bulldog bunch the lineup featured Erick Dampier and other future professionals. How, he said, “Just from an outsider’s standpoint it was impressive watching Mississippi State with all the different talents they have and how they’re starting to mix it together.”
The Bulldogs have a one more home date, Tuesday against Florida Atlantic (8:00) to tune-up the talents before taking their act back on the road for another high-profile matchup. That comes next Saturday with a 11:00 am contest at Detroit.