'Sluggish' MSU slugs Valley

STARKVILLE – For the most part, Mississippi State’s 73-45 romp of Mississippi Valley State served its purpose Tuesday night in front of 5,421 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs got a chance to hit the floor one more time before encountering a critical two-game road swing to conclude their non-conference schedule. Now riding an eight-game winning streak, MSU (11-2) travels to San Diego for a New Year’s Eve contest followed by a trip to Western Kentucky on Jan. 4.
“We’re glad to get that one over with and behind us,” said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. “We had a quick turnaround after Christmas. I thought we were a little bit sluggish. You look at a couple of stats – bad stats for me. Getting out-rebounded (45-44 is a bad stat and it’s probably the worst we’ve shot it (39.3 percent from the field.
“But that was to be expected. It doesn’t mean you like it but hey, now we have to go and get ready for a good San Diego team. They have wins already over Oklahoma and Houston and we have them at their place. So this will be a challenge for us.”
Ravern Johnson led the Bulldogs with 22 points to pace four MSU players in double digits. Phil Turner had 12 points while Barry Stewart and Jarvis Varnado had 11 and 10 points, respectively. Varnado also collected seven of MSU’s 12 blocked shots on the evening.
Shannon Behling led the Devils (1-12) with 16 points while Jason Holmes added 12.
The Delta Devils stayed relatively close with the Bulldogs for much of the first half. In fact, MVSU trailed just 25-20 with just under six minutes left in the half. However, State closed the first half on a 16-2 spurt and took a 41-22 halftime advantage.
The Bulldogs shot just 41 percent in the opening half but were 7-of-18 beyond the arc. State finished the evening with 12 3-pointers, including five from Johnson.
Johnson moved into eighth-place all-time with 133 career three-pointers.
“They played mostly zone so I had a lot of good open looks,” said Johnson. “We were not making them like we know we usually can. But we had to keep taking the open looks against their zone because that’s what they were giving us.”
MSU headed out early this morning for the West Coast, and seeks to continue its momentum into SEC action, which begins January 9th at Ole Miss.
“These two games are a chance for us to get a boost of confidence,” said Turner, who also had eight boards. “We had two tough challenges but two good opportunties, too.”

Paul Jones/Special to the Journal