If Mississippi State was going to keep Ole Miss from sweeping the season series for the first time in nearly a decade a half, the onus was going to fall on point guard Dee Bost.
After shooting 4-of-15 in the Bulldogs’ 75-68 loss to the Rebels on Jan. 18, Bost showed up on Thursday night, chalking up a double-double of 15 points and 13 assists to lead Mississippi State to a 70-60 win.
That strong play was infectious, as Bost’s ball distribution helped forward Arnett Moultrie to a game-high 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including an impressive alley-oop that Bost served up from half court.
Brandon Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger noted the contrast in Bost’s demeanor prior to the Jan. 18th loss to Ole Miss and leading up to Thursday’s game.
“Everybody talks trash, especially during the game,” Bost said on in a pregame press conference on Jan 17, commenting on the sparks he had begun on some social networks. “I’m just starting it off early on Twitter.”
Flash forward a few weeks and Bost had a different tone in his comments to the media.
“Up there I was kind of being passive and not attacking,” he told the Clarion-Ledger. “But we’re at home this game, and I’m going to attack him more and get to the foul line.”
He put aside the chatter that added some fuel to the fire of the first meeting between these two teams, and seemed to focus all of that energy onto the court.
Bost is the best dribble-drive threat for the Bulldogs (19-5, 6-3 SEC) and he attacked the basket Thursday night, not necessarily to score himself, but it opened up the paint for Moultrie and big man Renardo Sidney, who had 14 points, as well as spread the defense on the perimeter.
It would take a more-than-unlikely collapse for No. 1 Kentucky to lose out on the SEC title, but Mississippi State is in a good spot to pull even with or, if things fall their way, overtake No. 7 Florida and sneak into second place in the conference.
Of their seven remaining games, the Bulldogs play each of the bottom four teams in the SEC once (Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, and Auburn), while Florida has Tennessee at home, then Arkansas and Vanderbilt on the road.
Arnett Moultrie, with his 17 points and 11 rebounds per game, is continuing to look more and more like “a pro,” in the words of LSU coach Trent Johnson. Were Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis not in the SEC, one could make a case for Moultrie as the conference Player of the Year.
Mississippi State takes on Georgia on Saturday afternoon.