Louisiana-Monroe-Mississippi St. Preview
Back in the rankings for the first time since the 2009-10 season, Mississippi State shouldn't have a hard time staying there this week.
Following a surprising tournament victory at Madison Square Garden, the 24th-ranked Bulldogs begin a stretch of six straight games in Starkville on Monday night against Louisiana-Monroe.
Mississippi State (4-1) didn't get any votes in last week's AP poll, but it jumped into the Top 25 on Monday following upsets of then-No. 19 Texas A&M and then-No. 15 Arizona in New York.
Newcomer Arnett Moultrie powered the Bulldogs in Friday's 67-57 win over the Wildcats in the title game of the 2K Sports Classic, contributing 19 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
The 6-foot-11 junior transfer from UTEP played just five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, but he made a major impact as Mississippi State outscored Arizona 32-23 after the break.
"His size overwhelmed us around the basket," Wildcats coach Sean Miller said.
The Bulldogs' defense was stifling against an Arizona team that had averaged 73.5 points in winning its first four games. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury gave major praise to senior guard Dee Bost, who had just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting but added six assists and stood out on the defensive end.
"Stats can be misleading," Stansbury said. "Dee gave us a tremendous effort going against those guards and that's one thing you can control - effort."
Bost leads the Bulldogs with 16.0 points per game - just ahead of Moultrie, who sat out last season due to transfer rules but has wasted no time making his presence felt in a Bulldogs uniform. He has the early SEC lead with 11.2 rebounds a contest.
"It is an amazing feeling to play like that at the Garden, the biggest stage you can play on," Moultrie said.
Freshman Rodney Hood has also been a major factor with 11.2 points per game.
Mississippi State may be wary of a letdown back in Starkville, where it will face Louisiana-Monroe, Tennessee-Martin and North Texas this week.
The Warhawks (0-4) appear overmatched, having lost at Mississippi and Tennessee by an average of 22.5 points. They fell 63-60 at Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have won eight straight against Louisiana-Monroe dating to 1978.