STARKVILLE — Once again, the in-state rival seemingly had absolutely no defensive answer for Mississippi State’s 280-pound center. Renardo Sidney bruised his way to 14 points and seven rebounds in MSU’s 70-60 victory over the Rebels leaving Ole Miss Andy Kennedy simply shaking head and feeling helpless on the sidelines.
“When people look at Sidney and they say ‘boy he’s a talented player’ (but) people have no idea how big is he is,” Kennedy said. “He’s a big man. (We can’t) allow him to catch (the basketball) where we allowed him to catch it.”
In what has been a college career with focus on his improper conditioning, lack of effort and maturity issues, MSU coach Rick Stansbury was the first to point that his junior center deserved a hug for his performance Thursday night.
“I never felt like for a fatigue standpoint, he was killing us and got to point that he couldn’t go anymore,” Stansbury said.
“He was still at the end of the game sprinting and setting big body screens on the ball. He was very productive in 27 minutes.”
In the preseason media conference, Sidney told reporters he didn’t want the video of his fight with a teammate in Hawaii or his negative body language to define his career. On a big stage with a national television audience, the highly controversial player took a step in the right direction in a game the MSU fan base cares deeply about.
“I’m sure they’re waiting on me to screw up,” Sidney said in October. “Our team isn’t going to have a problem this year. We finally have grown up really. Dee (Bost) and Brian Bryant have done a great job of captains keeping us in line.”
Sidney, who had been known for scoring MSU’s first points of the year on the same motion set, had a two-handed dunk and hook shot to give
MSU (19-5, 6-3 in Southeastern Conference) an early 4-0 lead and get the energy up among the season-high 10,364 in attendance at Humphrey Coliseum.
Including his game-high 17 points in MSU’s loss at Oxford, Sidney is averaging 19.25 points per game and 8.25 rebounds per contest in four career games against the Rebels.
“Sid stepped up big tonight defensively and did a good job on (Buckner) tonight,” Moultrie said when asked about his frontcourt defense.
Moultrie and Sidney’s double-figure efforts allowed MSU to match the Rebels (14-9, 4-5) 34 points in the paint and match the combination of six offensive rebounds by Ole Miss forward Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway.
On the defensive end, Sidney was able to control Ole Miss’s frontcourt play and Sidney was able to get through the first two media timeouts without needing to be substituted out. Sidney went over 17 minutes without being whistled for his first personal foul allowing MSU’s lack of frontcourt depth to be as exposed as in their 75-68 loss in Oxford when Sidney and Moultrie were both in foul trouble.
In what is arguably the biggest frontcourt matchup of SEC play this season, Kennedy even joked that Sidney was able to get back-to-back layups on Ole Miss backup forward Demarco Cox because for the first time during the 2011-12 season the Rebels sophomore center was at a size disadvantage.
“He dwarfed Demarco Cox and he’s a sandwich away from 290 (pounds) ,” Kennedy said. “(Cox) looked like a child next to him. Sidney got it and put it in the cup but that’s what good players do.”
Then to culminate the evening and really put the game out of reach for Ole Miss, Sidney stepped back off a pick-and-roll to find himself wide open for a three-point basket to put MSU up 68-55 with less than three minutes to go.
In the eyes of his head coach, Sidney effort level in continuing to roll off screens late in the game and not asking out of the game at any point seemed to be a direct reflection of the team’s energy throughout Thursday night’s victory.
“I think there’s games he’s scored more points and gotten more rebounds but I think this was his most complete game from an effort standpoint,” Stansbury said.