JACKSON – As Mississippi State’s players head home for Christmas, they’ll be taking with them good tidings of great shooting.
Before a crowd of 5,502 at Mississippi Coliseum, the Bulldogs made 14 of 27 shots from 3-point range and slammed Centenary, 88-51, on Tuesday night.
MSU (10-2) takes a seven-game winning streak into the holiday break. Its next game is Monday at home versus Mississippi Valley State.
State actually started cold, missing its first four 3-point attempts, and Centenary was within 24-18 midway through the first half. But then Ravern Johnson knocked one down, and the Bulldogs quickly warmed up.
“We’re a 3-point shooting team. We come out and miss a three, it don’t mean we’re going to stop shooting,” said Johnson, who finished with a game-high 20 points and made 5 of 8 from deep. “Most of the night everybody had wide open shots, we couldn’t just turn them down.”
State is making an average of 10.5 triples per game. It had nine 3-pointers in the first half Tuesday.
Johnson had a four-point play with 3.4 seconds left in the half, rattling home a three and converting the free throw for a 46-27 lead at the break.
That lead kept growing in the second half, eventually swelling to a 28-point margin, then 36 points, then 40, then 43.
MSU made 30 of 60 shots overall and out-rebounded Centenary, 44-29. The Gents (4-7) were led by Roman Tubner and David Perez with nine points apiece.
Perez entered the game averaging 20.4 points, and Johnson was largely responsible to holding him down. Guarding the opponent’s best perimeter scorer normally falls on the shoulders of senior guard Barry Stewart.
“He’s getting better in a bunch of areas. And that’s what makes our team better,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said of Johnson, a 6-foot-7 junior. “I know I’ve got a shut-down guy in Stew, and this guy right here’s becoming one.”
Stewart scored 14 points to go with five assists. Center Jarvis Varnado was held to eight points, but that’s mainly because Centenary chose to collapse its zone on him and leave the perimeter relatively open.
“We played zone because we were so out-manned,” Centenary coach Greg Gary said. “We did a very bad job getting to (Johnson).”
“That’s a decision some teams make, and when you do, choose your poison,” Stansbury said.
Point guard Dee Bost had 10 points, six assists and six rebounds for MSU.
Centenary, of Shreveport, La., and the Summit League, shot 32.2 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
John Riek, MSU’s 7-1 freshman from the Sudan, saw his first significant playing time of the season. In eight minutes – all in the second half – he logged six points, seven rebounds and three turnovers.
His dunk with 2 minutes, 8 seconds left brought the crowd to its feet.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal