“I’d rather have both,” said Bost of the consistency vs. timing question. “But whatever needs to be done, I’ll do it.”
He will indeed. With the #20-ranked Bulldogs (15-3, 2-1 SEC) again staring a home-court upset in the face, it was the senior guard delivering a crunch time. He struck from the right corner at 4:23 to settle his side down after falling behind four points; and two minutes later hit again from that side to tie the tally 48-48.
And when Tide forward JaMychal Green missed a jumper, it was Bost of course taking it on himself to shoot again. His soft floater from the left wing was over an outstretched Alabama arm and in at 1:35 for a lead the Bulldogs didn’t lose.
“I was kind of feeling it,” said Bost of the guarded but still-unstoppable shot. “I had hit two previous shots and I felt I was going to make a big play at some point of the game. And I did.” Guard Brian Bryant added the final five markers, on a driving roller and a run-out layup at the buzzer for the MSU margin.
Bost finished with 17 points, despite 6-of-13 overall shooting and 3-of-7 accuracy at the arc. All that mattered was making his last three shots of course, much as he’d come through Thursday on another off-night offensively to stick the clutch three. So Coach Rick Stansbury was comfortable with his veteran guard pulling the trigger despite a general shooting slump of some six, seven games now.
“But he’s one of those guys that can step up at any time and make shots. And we live with some of the bad shots he takes because he can get on a roll. And he got on a roll for us.”
It wasn’t just Bost’s shooting that made the end-of-game difference. His decision making counted too, as when State was inbounding at the far end with a 53-52 scoreboard after Alabama’s Trevor Lacey scored a layout at 0:03. The Tide had not shot for a tie because State had already made them burn time with fouls and had one more to give.
“We wanted to get a quick shot,” Coach Anthony Grant said. “We were trying to go for a five-second count and Bost made a great play.” Not a called one either because Stansbury wanted to play percentages and inbounds to forward Arnett Moultrie for the sure fast foul. Bost thought otherwise and said so to the team.
“I told Brian in the huddle go long. Coach told us to throw it to Arnett but I figured they’d have two seconds left.” Bryant did break long and Bost delivered a strike reminding that he once was an all-state quarterback. Bryant made the layup as he was fouled for the three-point play.
Bryant had the clincher, and Bost was clutch. The big digits belonged to Moultrie though, as he dominated everything in arm’s reach of the goal. The junior forward piled up 25 points and 13 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the season. Moultrie was particularly potent either side of halftime; he scored ten of State’s dozen points to end the first period, and the first six of the second half.
Moultrie was 10-of-14 shooting, yet wasn’t crowing about his offense. “I just wanted to come out and have a big rebounding game,” he said, still angry at just four board in the Tennessee game. “And the rest took care of itself.”
“Those guys did a great job,” said Grant of State’s top Dogs. “Moultrie is very impressive. He had a great impact on the game.”
Not least on defense as Moultrie often drew Green to guard. With his moves and range the Alabama senior kept Dog defenders on their toes every turn, and Green did finish with 14 points. But he had to take 13 shots to get them and after hitting his first two chances was 4-of-11 the rest of the day. Worse, Green was the only Alabaman in double-figures. Forward Tony Mitchell was limited to eight points and guard Trevor Releford to seven.
Alabama was also 1-of-9 at the arc, off even by their SEC-low standards. The lone make came from substitute guard Andrew Steele. Stansbury praised Moultrie and center Renardo Sidney for limiting the Tide’s offensive options, particularly around the paint.
“Green never got in his comfort zone consistently. He’s going to make some points but he’s the only guy on their team in double-digits. And we did a great job on Releford, we kept him out of the lane.”
State staked an early claim based entirely on short jumpers and power ball, going up 12-4 without making any or even taking many long shots. Alabama on the other hand struggled. After a couple of early buckets from Green, the Tide went six minutes without scoring again until Mitchell got one to fall at 12:17.
Switching to zone, or zones, helped Alabama slow down the Bulldogs at one end. On the other hooks on either side of the lane by Jacobs and Green began a comeback, and substitute Steele dropped the game’s first trey. His free throws at 8:14 put the Tide briefly in front before the Bulldogs went zone as well for a while.
“Stats say you need to zone them,” Stansbury said. “We went to it just to change the pace and keep them out of rhythm. And Steele steps up and makes his first three-pointer all year.” There was no zoning in the second half by State.
With a 21-21 tie Moultrie took it on himself to drive baseline and score. A trip later a bobbled ball ended up in his hands under the goal for the dunk, and Moultrie made it 27-21 at the half. He was just as strong to start the second with another six-straight points, aided by Green’s absence. The Tide forward went down trying to take a Bost charge—no call, Moultrie layup--and had to sit for three minutes.
At 13:40 it was a nine-point lead, but Alabama found a groove of sorts and clawed back by attacking the goal when State was resting big men in turns. Even a returned starting squad lost rhythm and went scoreless for six long minutes…long enough for the Tide to get in front by four, and with the ball again. “I didn’t know if anybody was ever going to score,” said Stansbury.
Mitchell missed, Green picked up a fourth foul, and Bost rose to the occasion. “I guess we never got in that flow,” Bryant said. “We had to step up and make plays and that’s what we did down the stretch.”
“A hard fought game,” said UA’s Grant as the Tide slipped to 13-4, 2-1 SEC. “To Mississippi State’s credit they did a good job at the end of the game making the plays they needed to make. Dee Bost has done it his entire career. We had opportunities, I’m proud of the way our guys fought. We have to learn from this and understand life in the SEC.”
Having won two tough home games in under three days, the Bulldogs experience more life on the road this week. They renew the rivalry with Ole Miss next Wednesday at 8:00, and Bost knows what to expect in his last trip to Oxford.
“It’s a rivalry game, we’re going to be ranked and they’re going to be jacked-up.”
State also visits Vanderbilt next Saturday evening.