The Dagger - NCAAB

The dress rehearsal for Renardo Sidney's long-anticipated college debut included more bad omens than promising ones.

In Mississippi State's 101-76 exhibition victory over Belhaven University on Wednesday night, Sidney played just 15 minutes as a result of severe second-half cramping and fatigue. The highly touted 6-foot-10 big man finished with 10 points and six boards, but he rarely dominated the way Mississippi State was hoping he would.

"I thought I was going to get 30 (points) and 20 (rebounds)," Sidney told the Jackson Clarion Ledger. " I was cramping real bad. It's just a poor game decision, not hydrating real well. I've got to do better and hydrate and eat more bananas."

Cramping and fatigue in an exhibition game would be a concern for any player, but it's especially disheartening because of Sidney's track record. Questions about Sidney as a player have always centered around his work ethic and conditioning rather than his talent, particularly after he ballooned to well over 300 pounds late in his high school career.

Sidney missed all of his freshman year and the first nine games of this season because the NCAA ruled him ineligible to play, but he will be allowed to finally make his regular-season debut on Saturday against Virginia Tech. Mississippi State loaded its early schedule with patsies to stay afloat without him and Dee Bost, and then held this exhibition game in hopes of giving Sidney a chance to work out the kinks.

"Renardo had a lot of fatigue," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury told after the game. "He will have to get in better shape if we are going to use him a lot."

The problem for Mississippi State is that Stansbury doesn't have the luxury of bringing Sidney along slowly because the next few weeks are crucial to building a resume worthy of an at-large NCAA tournament bid.

The Bulldogs already dropped home games against Florida Atlantic and East Tennessee State and now they begin the back-loaded portion of their nonconference schedule. In addition to Saturday's neutral-court test against the Hokies, Mississippi State will then compete in the eight-team Diamondhead Classic in Honolulu from Dec. 22 to 25 against the likes of fellow NCAA tournament hopefuls Baylor, Butler and Florida State.

The good news for Mississippi State was that Bost made his unofficial debut on Wednesday night as well, scoring 26 points to complement fellow senior Ravern Johnson's game-high 29.

Unfortunately, Bost won't be able to play in a regular-season game until the start of SEC play, so Mississippi State is counting on Sidney to help the team stay afloat until then. 

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