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    Mississippi State

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STARKVILLE, Miss. – Playing back in the friendly confines of the Humphrey Coliseum, the Mississippi State men’s basketball team returned to the win column.

The 20th-ranked Bulldogs held off a late Tennessee rally to edge the Volunteers 62-58 in a physical, rugged Southeastern Conference matchup played before a crowd of 8,148 and a national television audience Thursday night.

“Our defense didn’t make the trip across the Mississippi River for the Arkansas game (a 98-88 loss last Saturday),” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “No team had scored more than 75 points on us all year long, so I didn’t panic coming into this game. Tonight’s effort was much better.”

MSU (14-3 overall, 1-1 SEC) led by as many as 12 points but could not shake Tennessee (8-8, 1-1) in a contest, which was actually decided on the game’s final possession.

With 11 seconds left, the Volunteers held the ball down two points. On the inbounds pass, Dee Bost made a steal at midcourt and raced to the other end with a high-flying dunk to close out the victory.

Bost finished the contest with four steals, giving him 168 for his Maroon and White career. This career total is third all-time as Bost squeezed past Chuck Evans during Thursday night’s win.

“I was trying to put as much pressure as I could in those final seconds,” Bost said. “I knew he (Trae Golden) was going to take the shot. I was able to make the play. It was frustrating in those final seconds, but I can carry it over to the next game and stay positive.”

After a 3-point basket by Renaldo Woolridge brought UT within those two points, Bost also had a turnover with Skyler McBee making a steal. Bost redeemed himself quickly with the game-clincher.

“Dee has been struggling on offense lately,” Stansbury said. “But you can never fault his effort. I think late in the game his effort made a huge play for us.”

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin thought the game turned in the final couple of minutes of the first half.

“The stretch they had there to end the half was really huge,” Martin said. “It was a great basketball game between two physical teams. They made more plays than us right there to end the half. That turned out to be a critical stretch of the game.”

Trailing 22-21, the Bulldogs ended the first half with a 15-5 run. The run was sparked by tenacious Bulldog defense, including blocked shots by Wendell Lewis and Arnett Moultrie. The Volunteers had four straight misses from the field, including a missed dunk attempt and a missed tip-in.

A dunk by Moultrie placed the Bulldogs on top 25-22 and a Rodney Hood baseline jumper stretched the lead. After a 3-pointer by UT’s Jordan McRae, the Bulldogs responded with a layup by Moultrie and a steal and fast-break lay-up by Bost.

“I wanted to get myself going and find my rhythm,” Moultrie said. “Tonight we shared the ball and it showed on the scoreboard. I was glad we were able to stop their momentum tonight.”

The Bulldogs led 36-27 at halftime. MSU opened each half with a Jalen Steele 3-pointer. Steele started the second half with a trey, moving the lead to a game-best 12  points – at 39-27.

Thanks to balanced scoring by Renardo Sidney, Moultrie and Bost, the Bulldogs kept a healthy lead most of the second half, before Tennessee scored five straight points to close within four with 7:31 remaining.

The lead was pushed back to six at 59-53 on a Bost 3-pointer with 3:13 remaining. Still, UT would rally again, as a dunk by Kenny Hall and Woolridge’s 3-pointer put the guests back on the doorstep.

“I want to give Tennessee credit for keeping their poise and fighting back,” Stansbury said. “We stepped up and made the plays when we had to, and got to the foul line where we knocked down our shots.”

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 22 of 50 shots from the field (44.0 percent), 5 of 16 shots from 3-point range (31.3 percent) and 13 of 17 shots from the foul line (76.5 percent). The Volunteers hit 23 of 54 shots from the field (42.6 percent), 7 of 14 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 5 of 7 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent).

UT held a 35-28 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and nine turnovers, while the Volunteers had nine assists and 14 turnovers.

Golden led all scorers with 20 points.


Sidney, Bost and Moultrie had 13 points apiece for the Bulldogs. Bost had five assists but made six turnovers. Sidney had a game-high seven rebounds. Lewis matched a career high with five blocked shots, while Moultrie set a new career high with four blocked shots. DeVille Smith also matched a season high with five assists and also had no turnovers in 19 minutes off the bench.

The Bulldogs host Alabama at 3 p.m. Saturday. That contest will be televised regionally by the SEC Network. MSU returns to the road Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tip at arch-rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs and Rebels will play regionally on Comcast Sports Southeast from the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford.



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