Stansbury hopes second chance a charm

January, 18, 2011
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury got what he wanted: Renardo Sidney scoring in the post on a regular basis and Dee Bost leading the Bulldogs to SEC wins.

But the two wins were against a struggling Ole Miss -- even in Oxford -- and bottom-feeder Auburn in Starkville.

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AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisIn just his second game back, Bost had 25 points, eight boards and six assists in a win at Ole Miss.

If the Bulldogs are to be taken seriously as a potential SEC tournament title contender, they must be a factor over the next three games. Mississippi State goes to Georgia on Saturday, where Sidney will tussle with SEC preseason player of the year Trey Thompkins, and then hosts Vanderbilt and Florida. Win two of those three and the Bulldogs will suddenly be viewed in a different light.

But through three SEC games, Stansbury has a completely different opinion of his team than he did during the train wreck trip of the Bahamas-Hawaii-Las Vegas that produced just one win and a national embarrassment when Sidney and former player Elgin Bailey exchanged haymakers in the stands during a Diamond Head Classic game on Dec. 23.

"We're starting over," Stansbury said Tuesday of the Bulldogs, who are now 10-7 overall, 2-1 in the SEC.

Bost was suspended for the first 14 games of the season for failing to know the NBA draft rule last May when he declared and didn't withdraw by the May 8 deadline, and for being academically ineligible for the fall semester. His first game was the SEC opening loss at home to Alabama. That was also Sidney's first game after being suspended for his role in the fight that forced him to miss the previous two games.

Sidney was 1-of-8. Bost was 5-of-16 for 14 points. Mississippi State lost 75-57.

"What isn't understood is that Dee missed 17 straight days of practice while we were gone on that crazy road trip," Stansbury said. "He had no legs in that first game. It was like an exhibition game for him but it was the SEC."

Sidney scored 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting and Bost scored 25 in the win over Ole Miss. The Bulldogs then squashed Auburn by 19 with Sidney scoring 15 and Bost scored nine.

"Two weeks ago that game would have been a dogfight," Stansbury said. "Sidney's mental approach is 100 percent better. He's more focused than at any time in his life. He's consistent in practice."

Stansbury is sticking by his decision to keep Sidney and jettison Bailey (the party line was that Bailey wanted to transfer but the Bulldogs didn't want to keep both and are adamant that Bailey started the fight). Sidney was also suspended for the Washington State game in Honolulu for verbally undressing a walk-on that was trying to encourage him in practice. Sidney is on a short leash. One more mistake and he could be gone.

"He's made mistakes and he's learning from them," Stansbury said.

Bailey is gone and Twany Beckham left, too. So the Bulldogs are a tighter group and there seems to be a sense that Ravern Johnson and Kodi Augustus will play better with Bost. Having Sidney as a reliable post scorer also could take pressure off them. Stansbury said he's moved on and so has Sidney. Stansbury said "none of us liked what happened but it happened on TV. We're going to make the best of it.

"We're making progress and I think that if we keep this team together we're going to be a good basketball team," Stansbury said. "We won the tournament two years ago [over Tennessee] and should have won it last year if it weren't for the last four seconds [against Kentucky]. We've got a chance again. We've got a chance. I like the position we're in."

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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