Practice had just ended, and as the Mississippi State players left the floor at the Orleans Arena on Tuesday, everyone appeared to be in a jovial mood.
Coach Rick Stansbury took that to be a victory, given what the program has endured the past six days.
The Bulldogs were embarrassed after two starters — Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey —- duked it out in the stands on Thursday while Mississippi State was in Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic.
According to ESPN, the fight began after Bailey wouldn’t move his legs to let Sidney pass through the aisle to go to the concession stand following the team’s 69-52 win over San Diego.
The duo were suspended indefinitely and were sent back to Starkville, Miss., to await further discipline.
It means Mississippi State will be shorthanded and short in general — minus the 6-foot-10-inch Sidney and the 6-8 Bailey — when it faces Saint Mary’s at 8 p.m. today at the Orleans. The Bulldogs also are without their point guard, Dee Bost, who is serving an NCAA suspension after failing to properly withdraw from last year’s NBA Draft.
“We are what we are,” Stansbury said. “We’ll put our people out there and try and compete.”
Stansbury and his team are trying to move on from the incident and a win tonight against the 10-2 Gaels would go a long way toward that end.
“I think we’re OK,” Stansbury said of his 8-5 team’s collective psyche. “The guys here have been embarrassed by all the attention it’s gotten.
“I think we’ve put it behind us. We got some enthusiasm back the last couple of days.”
The Bulldogs did not react well to the incident, losing to host Hawaii 68-57 on Christmas Day. They flew to Las Vegas on Monday looking to regroup and finish what has been a 16-day road trip that began in the Bahamas and ends here tonight.
“We needed one more game, otherwise we’d have been off 15 straight days between games,” Stansbury said of the decision to schedule Saint Mary’s.
“We didn’t want to go to their place and they didn’t want to come to us, so Vegas was a good compromise.”
It will be played in front of a small crowd. As of Tuesday, less than 200 tickets had been sold. However, the game is being televised nationally on ESPNU and that means the program will have to relive (on TV) the brawl in the stands yet again.
“We can’t change what happened. All we can do is try to move forward,” Stansbury said.
Contact sports reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or at 702-387-2913.