STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Troy's veteran coach Don Maestri remembers the last time he saw a Mississippi State team this talented.
It was 1996. The Bulldogs went to the NCAA Final Four."They might not have as much experience, but the players?" Maestri said. "Absolutely as talented."Dee Bost scored a season-high 28 points, Arnett Moultrie added 20 points and 12 rebounds and Mississippi State (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) cruised to a 106-68 victory over Troy on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.The Bulldogs (9-1) won their eighth straight game, shooting 56.3 percent (40 of 71) from the field, including 51.6 percent (16 of 31) from 3-point range. Renardo Sidney added a season-high 18 points and eight rebounds, Jalen Steele scored 15 and Rodney Hood 12.The five MSU starters combined for 93 points and 29 rebounds."We're not nearly as good as we've got to become," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "But one of our greatest strengths is our versatility."Bost shot 9 of 16 from the field, including 7 of 13 from 3-point range. The 6-foot-2 senior guard added nine assists and three rebounds.Moultrie posted his fifth double-double of the season. He shot 9 of 14 from the field and had five assists. Mississippi State dominated in the paint, outscoring Troy 42-26."My ears and eyes kind of perked up when I heard how small they were," Moultrie said.The Bulldogs were terrific from outside as well -- their 16 3-pointers tied a school record. They also had 30 assists to just 13 turnovers.Troy (4-4) was led by Emil Jones' 15 points. Will Weathers scored 10 and R.J. Scott added 10. Ray Chambers had eight points and 11 rebounds. The Trojans trailed by 47 points at one point in the second half, unable to keep up with Mississippi State's fast-paced offense.Troy also struggled with its shooting, making just 8 of 35 (22.9 percent) shots from 3-point range."We took away their strength -- the 3-point shot," Stansbury said.Maestri said there were two good things Troy could take the blowout. The first was that the Trojans responded from the early trouble with a solid 10-minute stretch to start the second half. The second?"It's over," Maestri said with wry grin.Mississippi State was occasionally sloppy with its decision-making in the first half, but shot so well that it didn't matter. The Bulldogs made 61.1 percent (22 of 36) of their shots from the field, including 53.3 percent (8 of 15) from 3-point range on the way to a 54-26 halftime lead. Steele and Moultrie had 12 first-half points.The Bulldogs didn't stop there, with 52 second-half points. They pushed past the 100-point mark with 4:54 left in the game Sidney's two-handed dunk. The final total would have undoubtedly been higher, but Stansbury emptied his bench with more than four minutes remaining.Sidney continued his enigmatic play, with good moments mixed with bad ones. The 6-foot-10 forward looked lethargic in the opening minutes and earned a technical foul after an off-color comment. But then he responded with a 3-pointer and a thunderous one-handed dunk on back-to-back possessions that served as a reminder of how good he can be.Steele made five 3-pointers, which tied a career-high. The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard is often the forgotten starter, but it's the third straight game he's scored at least 10 points.He suffered a season-ending knee injury against LSU, tearing the ACL in his left knee, but is fully recovered and playing the best basketball of his young career."I that that's three or four games in a row that he's been zeroed in," Stansbury said. "Now when the ball leaves his hands we expect it to go in. A few weeks ago you didn't know -- and he didn't know. But now he's got some confidence and he believes in his shot."