STARKVILLE — It”s Dee Bost”s time to shine.
The scene for an epic performance needed to lead the Mississippi State men”s basketball team out of a streak that has seen it lose five of its past six games is set for 8 tonight (ESPN2) against the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
The game will carry added importance, as MSU (8-7) and Ole Miss (12-4) will try to avoid dropping to 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
Tonight”s game will be Bost”s second of the season following a 14-game spell on the bench while serving a NCAA-mandated suspension.
His first game back was expected to provide the lift that pushed MSU over the edge.
It didn”t happen.
Instead, Alabama, which led by one point at halftime, blew out MSU 75-57 on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum. Bost struggled to find his shot and his legs, as evidenced by his 0-for-5 start at the free-throw line and 5-of-16 finish from the floor.
Still, he had 15 points and four assists in a difficult debut. As a newly elected captain by coach Rick Stansbury, Bost carries more than the burden of running the offense. He feels the challenge to transform MSU”s season, even as many national pundits have written off the team following Renardo Sidney”s suspensions in Hawaii and its lackluster form of late.
Bost said MSU “played without heart” and lacked chemistry against Alabama.
“We still will probably be looking for it (chemistry),” Bost said, “but it should be better than what it was. Saturday was just embarrassing, but it should be a lot better this week.”
Bost vows to be more mentally plugged in and a step closer to full fitness today. He said he took extra free throws and spent more time in the gym working on his jump shot trying to gets his legs back.
Part of his responsibility as captain will be to guide the Bulldogs back to their defensive identity, which took a hit following the graduation losses of Jarvis Varnado and Barry Stewart.
Playing better defense will be crucial, especially with MSU struggling to score. The Bulldogs have scored less than 60 points in four of their past six games.
“We”re just going to have to be a team that gets stops,” Bost said. “We didn”t really get many stops against Alabama, so we”ve just got to start on the defensive end, and the offense will come as far as getting good shots. It”s up to me to get them good shots.”
Bost hopes that starts tonight in Oxford, where he exploded for 25 points and six assists in an 80-75 win against the Rebels last season in the SEC opener.
Bost had 13 points and five assists at Oxford as a freshman, leading MSU to an 82-80 win. Senior Chris Warren, Ole Miss” leading scorer, is expected to match up against Bost. Warren was held in check in two games against MSU last season. He was 5 of 17 from floor and scored 15 points and had four assists in Oxford and was 1 of 9 for three points and two assists in Starkville. He is averaging 18.6 points and 4.3 assists per contest.
MSU senior guard Riley Benock hopes Bost is motivated by facing Warren and the challenge presented by Ole Miss” guard-heavy lineup that includes Zach Graham and Trevor Gaskins. Warren, Graham, and Gaskins average 42 of the Rebels” 78 points per game.
“Dee”s a competitor, and I think he sees Chris Warren as another guy that”s very capable of playing at the highest level,” Benock said. “That always gets Dee just flowing. We need him to be that competitor. We need him to start us off the right way. Hopefully, he”ll be settled down a little more with the second game here. He always does in the bigger games, and I expect it (today).”