STARKVILLE, Miss., - It might not have been the blowout the 5,160 fans inside Humphrey Coliseum expected but Mississippi State was able to prevail 76-66 over Eastern Kentucky in their season opener as part of the 2K Sports Classic.
The Colonels Princeton style offense and unorthodox 1-3-1 defense kept the game close but the Bulldogs were able to pull away late start the year 1-0.
"I don't think there was anything we could have done to fully prepare for their style of offense," said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. "They did what they are good at. They spread us out and controlled the tempo. Eastern Kentucky shot the ball well and had a chance to win the game. We didn't have any fi lm on them but we knew enough of their tendencies to understand what was coming. We found a way to win tonight, that style can mess you up but we found a way to score. This game is behind us now so we have to get ready for the next one."
MSU controlled the lead from the 17:44 mark and even though the Colonels kept draining treys to keep things close they never were able to cut the deficit any closer than five points in the second half.
The Bulldogs shot 48.3-percent from the field and knocked down eight of their 22 3-point attempts. They also outrebounded EKU 43-29 on the boards.
Dee Bost scored a game-high 23-points on 7-of-15 shooting and dished out six assists. He also drained 4-of-8 from downtown.
"I know I turned the ball over too many times (five)," Bost said. "I needed to give myself and the team a spark of energy. We knew this team could shoot three's so we really had to step it up on defense."
In his State debut, Arnett Moultrie recorded a double-double putting up 13 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
"It was an ugly game, but a win is a win," Moultrie said. "It shows we need to work on our defense."
Former five-star recruit Rodney Hood narrowly missed a double-double in his first game as a Bulldog scoring 12 points and grabbing nine defensive boards.
"He played well tonight," Stansbury said of Hood. "He had pretty good stats for a freshman this game. I would take that even if he was a junior. He is beyond his years in the mental part of his game."
The two teams traded the lead twice in the early going but Mississippi State was able to build a 12-point lead a little over six minutes into the contest. The Colonels however battled back to cut the score to 33-27 by halftime.
It was a six-point ballgame in the game's final 30-seconds but Bost continued to carry the Bulldogs down the stretch scoring their final five points to earn the victory.
Eastern Ketucky shot 40-percent from the floor on the evening with 10 of their 26 made shots coming from behind the arc.
"To beat a team like Mississippi State, we had to be ready," said EKU head coach Jeff Neubaur. "Mississippi State is not just an SEC team, they are a team with a lot of talent and a great coach who is very well established. In order to beat them, we have to execute really well and that is something we will continue to work on."
Joshua Jones led the Colonels with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
"It's always tough when dealing with big players," Jones said. "We just ran our offense and took what we could. They just had big guys who stayed in the paint."
MSU will have a quick turnaround taking on Akron Wednesday night at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.