Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury wasn’t disappointed with the effort during the end to a lengthy win streak. However, he also said his team will likely need a better performance in its next game.
The 15th-ranked Bulldogs will wrap up their non-conference slate Saturday against resurgent Utah State.
The Bulldogs held the unbeaten Bears to a season-low 34.5 percent shooting but gave up the winning basket with 28 seconds left in a game that featured nine lead changes and eight ties.
“Frustration is not the word I’m feeling now,” Stansbury said. “Missing shots, turning the ball over; that’s part of the game some. Those are things you can get better at, and we know we have things to get better at in those areas.”
Mississippi State might have to get better quickly with Utah State having appeared to find its stride following some early struggles. The Aggies, who have reached the last three NCAA tournaments, started 4-5 before winning four in a row.
They earned their latest victory, 81-62 over Kent State on Dec. 22, thanks in large part to one of their best shooting performances of the season (56.6 percent). Junior forward Kyisean Reed made 12 of 13 attempts en route to a career-high 27 points and leading scorer Preston Medlin (14.3 ppg) knocked down 6 of 8 shots to add 20 points.
“They’ve been playing very well lately, and we’ll have to be at our best,” Stansbury said.
Utah State, though, has claimed all of its past four wins at home and is 1-4 away from there this season. Dee Bost will try to help deal the Aggies (8-5) another road loss while breaking a school record.
The senior guard needs three assists to top Derrick Zimmerman’s career mark of 514 set from 1999-2003.
“It’s a record that means a lot to me,” Bost said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to accomplish since I’ve been here. But more than anything, we need a win.”
The play of leading scorer Arnett Moultire (16.9 ppg) might be the key to earning that victory. The 6-foot-11 junior forward, also averaging an SEC-best 11.5 rebounds, is listed an inch taller than any Aggies player. Utah State also has just one more rebound than its opponents this season (444-443) with 6-7 senior forward Morgan Grim pulling down a team-best 95.
“You look at playing (Mississippi State) and obviously their length, their athleticism, their talent jumps out at you,” coach Stew Morrill said. “A big concern for us every night out is whether we can hang in on the boards. (Mississippi State) can just keep coming at you with talent.”
This game will mark the first in a three-game series that will continue in Logan, Utah, in 2013-14, making Mississippi State one of the few high-major conferences willing to play at Utah State. The Aggies return to Starkville the following season.
Mississippi State and Utah State have never previously faced each other. The Bulldogs are facing their first opponent from Utah since defeating BYU at home on Dec. 2, 1995.