The lead to my MSU basketball notebook today dealt with bench production, or the lack thereof – no reserves scored in Saturday's 71-64 win over Florida.
To put it kindly, the bench play has been spotty in SEC action. But one player in particular needs to step things up: Brian Bryant. The juco All-American has looked more like a freshman walk-on of late, and the numbers support the eyeball test: In six SEC games, Bryant's stat line looks like this: 7 points on 3-of-8 shooting, 11 rebounds, 3 assists.
Those are totals, not averages. But if you want averages, that works out to 1.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game. This from a guy who started at point guard nine times in non-league play, posting averages during that span of 7.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 2.5 apg.
Of course, you knew his numbers would dip once Dee Bost returned to the starting lineup. But when Twany Beckham transferred to Kentucky, Bryant firmly became the Bulldogs' second point guard. For whatever reason, he's not taken hold of that role.
Bryant is averaging 9.7 minutes per game in the league, and he played only three minutes Saturday against Florida. Bost is averaging 34.8 minutes per game and has logged 37 each of the last two games. Bryant's diminished minutes are a result of his poor play, but MSU needs him to earn those minutes back.
"Brian Bryant's a guy we need to get more out of, and y'all know his situation," coach Rick Stansbury said. "He was like a deer in the headlights coming back in there Saturday after what happened to him Thursday night. We need more from him."
What happened Thursday was a huge turnover by Bryant late in an 81-74 loss to Vanderbilt. Bost has tried talking to him and encouraging him. After all, this kid was pretty dang good in junior college and was solid in non-SEC play.
"Before I came over here I was talking to him, I told him when he comes in he's got to come to play," Bost said Monday. "I need a break throughout the game, I just told him he's got to play to stay in the game so I can get a break. And we need him."
And MSU needs him now. Up next is a trip to Alabama on Wednesday, a rematch of Jan. 8, when the Tide put a 75-57 beatdown on the Bulldogs in Bost's first game of the season. Bryant played 17 minutes that game, recording zero points and one assist.