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Pre-game at Humphrey Coliseum 2011-12: Game No. 17 - Tennessee at No. 20 Mississippi State


Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE -- Tennessee (8-7, 1-0 in SEC play) at No. 20 Mississippi State (13-3, 0-1), 8 p.m., Site: Humphrey Coliseum; TV: ESPN2 




Current Line: Mississippi State by 7.5 




Since we're a few hours away from tipoff let's count down the early subplots of tonight's contest before The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog arrives Saturday.  




- Tennessee tries to prove their win wasn't a fluke; MSU tries to stop the loss from being a trend 




"I'm not going to panic on the Arkansas game," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said Tuesday. " It is just different and there is no way you can simulate it in practice. You've got to give them credit because they made shots, they made shots. They made shots in a lot of different ways with a lot of different people. You've got to give credit for us playing the way we played, it wasn't all us." 


Brian Bryant, who is not only Bost's guard teammate and roommate on campus and on the road, said he doesn't have to see the tape of MSU's 98-88 loss at Arkansas to see where the 20th-ranked Bulldogs went wrong. It's already been discussed in a closed-door meeting between the two friends.  


"We just didn't have no energy through our guard positions," Bryant said Tuesday. "We talked after the game that we need to come in and have a good defensive practice, just for the guards to help out our bigs. We feel like we put a lot of pressure on (Renardo) Sidney and Arnett (Moultrie) as (far as) the guards getting to the rim, and that's how they were getting their fouls." 


Bryant, who along with sophomore Jalen Steele as the shooting guard combination for MSU, has scored 14 total points over his last three games with nine rebounds. Steele has had no conversions from beyond the three-point arc in either of his last two games. However, it's the little things that don't show up on the box score that the two perimeter threats for MSU have focused on this week. 


"We've got to handle the ball more," Bryant said. "We had too many careless turnovers. We've just got to play better defense, because to me I really don't think I have to score as much, just play defense and rebound, all the little things." 


The inside-out combination of Bost and Arnett Moultrie, who are fourth and fifth in the SEC in scoring at 16.2 points each is going to be a major focus for Tennessee as they come to Humphrey Coliseum tonight (8 p.m., ESPN2)  


"Dee is a quick point guard, physical, he scores it," Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He's 6-2, gets to the rim and shoots the three-point shot while Moultrie demands a double-team on the blocks and is a physical presence. It's one of those deals where you have to get him off the blocks; you can't let him get in a rhythm. But when a shot a shot goes up, you've still got to keep him off the glass." 


The player on the perimeter that stands up to the challenge of being another option offensive could be the primary reason to which direction Mississippi State (13-3, 0-1 in SEC) goes in the Southeastern Conference standings this season. 


"It's a 15 game season now and we can't let one loss cause another loss," Stansbury said. "I don't expect them to be happy because I'm not happy. Don't expect them to be in a rah rah mood, be disappointed in them if they were. You go to work. Effort hasn't been a problem on this team." 






- Scouting Tennessee  


Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin brings a more half-court defensive philosophy by being an East St. Louis native that played for former Purdue coach Gene Keady with the Boilermakers and then spent eight seasons as an assistant on the Purdue bench before he averaged 20 wins per season at Missouri State.  


Martin is still learning how to incorporate the Volunteers new style with the athletes recruited by former coach Bruce Pearl that caus havoc and turnovers to led to easy baskets. 


"We played hard (against Florida) competed, got the ball inside, made big plays and more than anything sustained the blows," Martin said. "They are the type of team that even on our scouting report can rail off 12 quick points on you in transition, shooting threes, attacking the rim. We did a really good job of slowing those guys down and making them work for catches. Extending their offense was probably the best effort all season, switching the ball screens and making them make adjustments. It was a great team effort as well as the atmosphere." 


On the offensive end, the Vols are led in scoring by sophomore guard Trae Golden (14.6 points per game) and junior forward Jeronne Maymon (11.2 ppg). However, Tennessee has already suffered disappointing home losses to Austin Peay and Pittburgh because of their inability to avoid long scoring droughts. 


"Really it's a different ball game on the road, especially in the first 10 minutes of the game," Martin said. "You have to set the tone, how you play, you have to move the ball. At home, it is one or two passes and a shot; on the road, it is maybe four or five passes and really executing your offense to make those guys work. Most home teams run off rhythm, they play off runs, quick shots, transition baskets, so we really have to make those guys bog down and defend for a long time." 




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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