The talk during the preseason was that Mississippi State could be one of the top teams in the country if touted freshman Renardo Sidney was deemed eligible. Sidney has yet to play a game as the NCAA investigates how his family paid for a home in Southern California while he attended high school there for two seasons.
Even without Sidney, the Bulldogs have been just fine.
With the 2009-10 campaign nearing its midway point, Mississippi State is 13-3 and 1-0 in SEC play following a huge win Saturday against rival Ole Miss.
Much of the credit for the Bulldogs’ gaudy record should go to the players. But also deserving a pat on the back is coach Rick Stansbury, whose team has had to overcome more than just the Sidney distraction to get to where it is today.
Stansbury took time over the weekend to chat with Yahoo! Sports about Mississippi State’s big victory, the Sidney situation, the SEC race and his favorite hobby, fishing.
Q: What kind of a momentum boost did you get from Saturday’s win at Ole Miss?
A: To win it on the road … I mean, Ole Miss has a very good basketball team, so that makes it even more special. I haven’t taken many teams up there when we weren’t regarded as the best team. It’s just always tough to win there. So to go up there when they’re ranked and supposedly the best team and get a win it makes it even better.
Q: What worked so well for you against Ole Miss? Why did everything come together?
A: It wasn’t so much about us coming together as it was about us playing the way we’ve been playing, because we’d been playing really well. We’d won nine in a row before the Western Kentucky game. Western Kentucky was just a good team that played really well at home on a night when we weren’t at our best. So we came back and stepped it up a notch [against Ole Miss].
Our kids were in the right frame of mind. Ole Miss was leading the league in scoring. We were leading the league in defensive field-goal percentage, so two wills were going to be tested. We held them to nine points below their scoring average and out-rebounded them by seven or eight. Those are the things that have to be consistent for you on the road if you’re going to have a chance. It was a special win but, like I told our kids, it’s just one win. We’ve got 15 big ones left.