Special to The Herald
OXFORD - Mississippi State could not recover from early offensive troubles as the 15th-ranked Bulldogs dropped a 75-68 decision to arch-rival Ole Miss in a Southeastern Conference men's basketball game played Wednesday night at Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Bulldogs missed 10 of their first 11 shots from the field but did manage to recover for a pair of brief leads. However, the Rebels took advantage of some MSU misfires on offense down the stretch and hit just enough free throws to seal the victory.MSU fell to 15-4 overall and 2-2 in league play, while Ole Miss improved to 12-6 and 2-2. The Bulldogs had won five straight in the series and three straight in this arena. Amazingly enough, Ole Miss is now 15-0 in Wednesday night home conference games under coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels are also a perfect 8-0 on the home hardwood this season.
"It is tough to play uphill all night long," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "We kept the game within striking distance. They spurted out to nine or 10 in the second half and we got it back down to four. Then we had three or four empty possessions. When you are fighting for your life on the road, you can't have empty possessions."
Reginald Buckner dominated the activity for the Rebels. Buckner posted his fourth double-double of the season with 19 points and 15 rebounds, including 10 on the defensive end. Ole Miss had its best offensive night in league play, posting 75 total points while shooting an even 50 percent from the field.
Thanks to the early offensive struggles for MSU, Ole Miss built an early 12-3 lead less than six minutes into the contest. The Bulldogs closed within 15-12 on a 3-point basket by Jalen Steele. Seconds later, a Rodney Hood 3-pointer brought the guests within one. MSU finally broke through for a 18-17 lead on a Hood jumper and stretched the lead to a game-best 21-19 advantage on a Steele 3-pointer.
Ole Miss answered with the game's next eight points and would not trail again. The Rebels carried a 38-33 lead into the halftime.
"In the second half, we knew we had a chance if we could make some defensive stops," Stansbury said. "They missed some free throws and that kept us in the game. However, we could not sustain an offensive rhythm. We couldn't ever quiet get over the hump."
Ole Miss scored the first two baskets of the second half to stretch the lead to 42-33. MSU battled back yet again. An Arnett Moultrie 3-point basket brought the Bulldogs within four at 51-47 with 10:04 left. The Bulldogs missed their next three shots. MSU would later close within three twice, the last time at 63-60 with 2:21 left. Terrance Henry then hit a pair of free throws for Ole Miss and the Rebels, despite making only 17 of 30 free throw attempts, moved back out of danger.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23 of 61 shots from the field (37.7 percent), 12 of 16 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent) and 10 of 29 shots from 3-point range (34.5 percent). The Rebels hit 27 of 54 shots from the field (50.0 percent), 17 of 30 shots from the foul line (56.7 percent) and 4 of 13 shots from 3-point range (30.8 percent).
Ole Miss held a 38-35 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 15 assists and seven turnovers, while the Rebels had 14 assists and five turnovers.
Sidney paced the Bulldogs with 17 points. Dee Bost added 15 points, while Hood scored 13 points and Moultrie scored 10 points. Moultrie also had a team-best 12 rebounds for his conference-best 10th double-double of the season.
The Rebels also received 17 points from Nick Williams, 12 points from Jarvis Summers and 12 points from Henry.
The Bulldogs remain on the road for Saturday night contest at Vanderbilt. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville. ESPN2 will have the national telecast. MSU is back home for LSU on Jan. 25.