Akron Downs Mississippi State
By, Hunter Richardson
Lack of hustle. Cold shooting. Poor defense. Turnovers.
Chalk it up to whatever you like, but clear and simple, Mississippi State (1-1) got outplayed Wednesday night against Akron (1-0), losing 68-58.
“I want to give Akron all the credit tonight,” said Rick Stansbury. “They were better than us in every area of the game. We never had control of the game. Akron beat us to every loose ball and every 50/50 ball went their way. They outworked us and made more plays.”
In a game that saw the Bulldogs shoot below 35 percent for the game, allow 26 points off of turnovers, and get outscored in the paint 44-28, Stansbury would provide no excuse for the upset.
“We could never get anything going on a consistent basis,” said Stansbury. “You can’t blame being tired from Monday (a 76-66 win against Eastern Kentucky).However, for whatever reason, we really didn’t respond. We didn’t come out with a lot of energy, and we failed to get into a rhythm.”
State gained a five point lead early off of a Rodney Hood 3-point basket and a Brian Bryant free throw, but couldn’t keep anything going after that. Akron forward Quincy Diggs, who led all scorers with 19 points, flattened the Bulldogs run with a pair of layups and a 3-point shot, quieting the crowd at the Hump.
“Coach told us before the game we were going to take some punches and we just have to counter back,” said Diggs. “We did a good job of that tonight.”
The Dogs kept it close throughout the majority of the first, but a Zeke Marshall slam would tie the game at 19 with 8:51 remaining and spark a 20-10 run for the Zips, which would give them an eight point lead going into the break.
That eight-point lead would grow to as many as 12 throughout the second half, which was dominated by the Zips. State would cut the lead to four twice, but the lead would never drop below six for the Zips for the remaining 11:33 of the game.
Leading the way for Mississippi State was senior guard Dee Bost, who posted a team-high 13 points despite a rough night shooting (2-9). Arnett Moultrie was not able to find his shot tonight either, as he went 2-13 from the field to score eight points, but did grab a game-high 15 rebounds. Star big man Renardo Sidney scored 12 points on 5-9 shooting and grabbed five rebounds for the night.
For the Zips, forward Zeke Marshall dropped in 10 points and six rebounds. Marshall showed why he is one of the top shot-blockers in the nation, blocking five for the game.
Despite the poor performance, the Dogs have to shift their focus to the future. Laying ahead is a Saturday matchup at home against South Alabama and a season-defining trip to New York for the Championship Rounds of the 2K Sports Classic. Moultrie explained that the Dogs have a lot to work on before the showdowns at Madison Square Garden.
“This game was definitely a wake-up call for us,” explained Moultrie. “We need to hustle more and get stronger. We need to get more physical in the post. We also need to take care of the ball and not make so many turnovers.”
The Dogs will open the Championship Rounds of the 2K Sports Classic next Thursday in New York with a 7 p.m. (ET) battle with the future SEC member Texas A&M Aggies.
Tickets for the Championship Rounds of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coach vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden can be purchased by calling 866-448-7849 or at ticketmaster.com.