Dogs Top ‘Cats, Crowned Kings Of NYC
By: Hunter Richardson
“King of the hill, top of the heap.”
Frank Sinatra’s classic lyrics are ringing in the ears of Mississippi State (4-1) faithful Friday as the Bulldogs wrapped the 2K Sports Classic Championship trophy in Maroon and White, defeating No. 16 Arizona (4-1) 67-57 at Madison Square Garden.
Led by Tournament Most Valuable Player Arnett Moultrie and a solid team defensive effort, State was able to oust the No. 16 Wildcats in a close-fought matchup in sport’s most prestigious arena.
Moultrie’s fourth double-double of the season powered State to knock off its second-consecutive ranked opponent, a feat the Dogs hadn’t accomplished since beating Florida and South Carolina in 2004.
Just like Thursday night’s matchup against the No. 18 Texas A&M Aggies, MSU came out with a blistering start, scoring the game’s first seven points and dominating the entire game. And just like Thursday’s contest, State never once trailed.
“We came out with the intensity you have to have to win games like this,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “It was our most complete game offensively, while we really locked them down on defense in the final half.”
State’s impressive start did gain a response from the Wildcats, who had a large fan base at MSG fueling their fire. A 12-2 run by the ‘Cats tied the game at 23 in the first half, but a couple of baskets by freshman Rodney Hood and a three from guard Brian Bryant put the Dogs back in the driver’s seat. However, Arizona proved, as it did all night, that it wouldn’t go away without a fight, only trailing by one at the half, 34-33.
When State entered the second half, they picked up where they left off. With the offense still firing, the defensive intensity kicked into a new gear, holding Arizona to 23 total points and eight field goals in the final half.
Arizona’s scrappiness showed greatly in the second half, cutting the lead to one in two instances. After closing it to 44-43, Moultrie took over and slammed the ball home, fueling a 6-0 run for the Dogs to jump out to a seven-point lead. Later in the game, they would close it to 54-53, but the trio of Renardo Sidney, Dee Bost, and Moultrie silenced the ‘Cats and built up a six point lead.
Following two Wendell Lewis baskets that increased the lead to ten, Moultrie, celebrating his 21st birthday, slammed the door on Arizona with two clutch free throw in the closing minutes.
State won the shooting battle, hitting 26 of 58 shots from the field (44.8 percent) compared to Arizona’s 23 of 58 (39.7 percent). Once again a telling stat, the Dogs won the battle at the charity stripe, hitting 11 of 17 free throws (64.7 percent), where the Cats hit 5 of 9 from the foul line (55.6 percent).
Similar to Thursday’s matchup, State held the rebounding advantage, 36-31, and the two teams held similar stats in assists (MSU 10, Arizona 11) and turnovers (nine turnovers each).
Hood posted nine points, where Sidney put up eight for the Dogs. Bost, who was named to the all-tournament team with Moultrie, scored eight points and a team-best six assists.
For the ‘Cats, Solomon Hill led the way with 12 points, while Jesse Perry contributed 11 points.
The time for celebration is short for the Dogs, as they’ll get right back to work in preparation for a Monday game against Louisiana-Monroe at Humphrey Coliseum, the start to a six-game homestand.
State is hoping that since they made it in NYC, that they can make it anywhere…perhaps, New Orleans?