By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
STARKVILLE – In a welcomed change of scenery, there was no need for last-second drama for the Mississippi State basketball team. And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bulldogs.
After dropping two straight last-second losses, MSU (5-2) bounced back Sunday afternoon with a 74-58 romp of visiting North Carolina Aamp&T (5-4).
“Going all the way back to the exhibition game, this was the first game that wasn’t a nailbiter,” said MSU coach Rick Stansbury. “That was good to let a lot of people play and let them play through mistakes.”
The Bulldogs, who tipped off less that 16 hours after Saturday’s 63-62 loss against East Tennessee State, started to pull away late in the first half and built a 41-21 advantage at halftime.
Fueling that first-half performance was a 9 of 16 showing beyond the arc. The Bulldogs finished with a season-high 15 3-pointers.
Doing most of that deep-range damage were seniors Ravern Johnson and Riley Benock, who knocked down a career-high five 3-pointers and finished with career-best 15 points. Johnson led MSU with 17 points and also had five 3s.
“It was just one of those games where we knew we had to step up and get a win,” said Benock, who added a career-high eight rebounds. “It started off well for me and I got a couple of easy looks. It just carried over from there. We have some good 3-point shooters and if you have the shot you gotta take it.
“The kind of defense they played, they slacked off us a little bit and we got some good looks early.”
The visiting Aggies were led by Nic Simpson’s 16 points while Thomas Coleman had 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
State’s hectic slate of games continues tonight when the Bulldogs host Nicholls State, marking the team’s third game in three days.
“I think the biggest thing I was pleased of besides getting the win, it was our response” to Saturday night’s loss, Stansbury said. “We could’ve easily, mentally, not have any kind of sharpness to us today at all. But we came out with as good of focus as you could hope to have.”
Five games, five days
– Mississippi State is in the midst of a stretch that will see the Bulldogs play five games in five days.
The Bulldogs lost on Saturday and won on Sunday. They’re home tonight and Tuesday before an exhibition game on Wednesday.
“Back when we made the schedule, it was more appealing than it is now, but we wouldn’t change it,” coach Rick Stansbury said before his team embarked on the marathon:
East Tennessee State: Lost 63-62 on Saturday
North Carolina A&T: Won 74-58 on Sunday
Nicholls State: Tonight at 7 in Starkville
Alabama State: Tuesday at 7 in Starkville
Belhaven: Wednesday at 7 in Jackson (Mississippi Coliseum)