Northwestern St.-Mississippi St. Preview

The Associated Press

After overcoming its first true road test, Mississippi State has one more tune-up before facing a stiff challenge against a top-10 opponent.

The No. 18 Bulldogs will try for an 11th consecutive victory Thursday night when they host Northwestern State.

While it did upset previously ranked Texas A&M and Arizona to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden last month, Mississippi State (11-1) had not played on an opponent's home floor until it held on for an 80-75 win at Detroit on Saturday.

Rodney Hood hit the go-ahead basket with 17.7 seconds left and Arnett Moultrie had a key block a few seconds later to help the Bulldogs come out ahead despite blowing a 15-point second-half lead.

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury thinks that type of game will make his team stronger and much better down the road.

"This is a sweet win," Stansbury told Mississippi State's official athletics website. "When you look back in March, it will be an even sweeter win. I am really proud of the guys for stepping up and making plays at the end of the game."

Handling the pressures of playing in a hostile environment also could help prepare the Bulldogs for their date with sixth-ranked Baylor in Dallas next Wednesday.

While Mississippi State is excited for the task that awaits in that contest, it must first try to focus on the matter at hand Thursday.

The Bulldogs have averaged 81.7 points on 51.0 percent shooting while winning seven in a row at home since being upset 68-58 by visiting Akron on Nov. 9. However, they received more of a challenge than expected despite going 27 of 54 from the field in a 75-68 victory over Florida Atlantic on Dec. 13 in their most recent home game.

The 6-foot-11 Moultrie missed that contest with knee tendinitis but finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds at Detroit. The junior, in his first season with the Bulldogs after transferring from UTEP, has averaged 22.3 points and 11.8 boards in his last four home games.

Guard Dee Bost averages a team-leading 18.0 points overall and has totaled 50 in his last two home games. The senior needs 11 assists to break the school record of 514 set by Derrick Zimmerman from 1999-2003.

Bost and Moultrie look to continue that success in Starkville while facing Northwestern State (7-5), which snapped a five-game skid to the Bulldogs with a 76-75 overtime win in the schools' most recent meeting Nov. 26, 2005.

The Demons enter this contest looking to snap a five-game skid against ranked opponents since a 64-63 win over then-No. 15 Iowa in the first round of the 2006 NCAA tournament.

Northwestern State has averaged 83.3 points during a three-game winning streak, but the last two contests were against NAIA schools Missouri Valley and Central Methodist. The Demons were tied with Central Methodist at halftime Monday before pulling away for an 89-79 win.

Junior guard Shamir Davis, who scored 19 points in that contest, averages a team-leading 13.2.

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