No. 20 Mississippi State beats Mississippi 70-60
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi's hope of sweeping the season series from rival Mississippi State for the first time since 1998 didn't last long.
Buried under an avalanche of dunks off alley-oop passes and hampered by an inconsistent offense, the Rebels lost 70-60 to the 20th-ranked Bulldogs on Thursday night.
"We never got consecutive baskets in a manner that would put pressure on them," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "They put us on the mat right off the jump."
Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Dee Bost had a career-high 13 assists as the Bulldogs won for the fourth time in five games. Moultrie made 9 of 14 shots from the field in another efficient performance that's typified his breakout season.
"I don't know how I was so open," Moultrie said. "I was surprising myself sometimes."
Bost is Mississippi State's career assists leader, and found plenty of room to work against the Rebels. Ole Miss has leaned heavily on good defense, rebounding and hustle this season because of a hit-and-miss offense, but couldn't figure out how to keep Mississippi State from getting easy baskets.
The Bost-Moultrie connection was good for four dunks, including three alley-oops.
"When you see us and you see them, they're bigger," Kennedy said. "When the bigger team is quicker to the ball you're in trouble."
Bost had eight assists in the first half as the Bulldogs built a 40-27 lead and the 6-foot-2 senior's 13 assists were the most by an SEC player this season. His most spectacular pass came near the end of the first half, where he let loose a perfectly timed heave from midcourt that found Moultrie streaking toward the rim.
Mississippi State (19-5, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) scored the first eight points and never trailed. Renardo Sidney added 14 points and Rodney Hood scored 10 for the Bulldogs.
Kennedy joked that he "didn't want to seem like Bost's agent," but called him the best point guard in the SEC. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury agreed that Bost had a nearly flawless floor game.
"He got us in transition, scored in transition when we needed him to and was patient when we needed him to be," Stansbury said.
The result was a Mississippi State win that was never particularly close, and the Bulldogs continue to look like a team that's talented enough to go deep into the NCAA tournament.
"This time of year, you've got to get at that level," Stansbury said. "It's tough to play at that level for 30 games, but at this time of year, you're talking about seven games."
Reginald Buckner had 15 points and nine rebounds for Ole Miss (14-9, 4-5), which has lost three of four. Jarvis Summers scored 12 points and Jelan Kendrick added 11 for the Rebels.
Ole Miss won the first meeting between the teams 75-68 on Jan. 18, mostly thanks to Buckner, who had a career-high 19 points and 15 rebounds. The 6-8 junior forward had another good performance in the second go-round, but the rest of the Rebels couldn't keep pace and appeared overmatched from the outset in front of a raucous crowd of 10,364.
Mississippi State pushed its lead to double figures by midway through the first half. The Rebels pulled within 33-27 on Jarvis Summers 3-pointer, but Moultrie ended the half with two thunderous dunks — including the spectacular halfcourt alley-oop from Bost.
"It was personal," Moultrie said. "I like the atmosphere of a rivalry, that's what gets my adrenaline going."
After a subpar game against Ole Miss in the first meeting, Mississippi State's big men were active and dominant.
Moultrie fell one rebound shy of his 14th double-double of the season. Sidney was efficient, too, making 6 of 9 shots from the field and grabbing seven rebounds.
Mississippi State outrebounded Mississippi 38-33.
Mississippi State's 13-game home winning streak is tied for the program's second-longest since Humphrey Coliseum opened in 1975. The Bulldogs have a chance to tie the record on Saturday against Georgia.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: (at)davidbrandtAP