By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – As Jalen Steele’s errant 3-point shot fell toward the rim, Brian Bryant came flying in from the baseline, grabbed the rebound and slammed it home.
That attacking mentality has defined Bryant the last two games. In Saturday’s 79-59 win over Arkansas, the Mississippi State senior guard scored 15 points to record consecutive double-digit scoring games for the first time since mid-November.
He had 16 points at South Carolina on Wednesday. Bryant has made 14 of 16 shots over the last two games.
“I feel like I’m being more aggressive, taking the open shots that they’re yelling at me for not taking,” Bryant said. “And I see they’ve got more confidence in me now, so I don’t hesitate.”
Bryant said one of those teammates yelling at him to shoot is fellow senior Dee Bost, the point guard. Bost has always been a scorer, but Bryant averages 7.1 points per game even after his recent outburst.
With some key players hobbled (Rodney Hood) and struggling (Steele), Bryant’s offense has been much-needed.
“Better late than never,” Bryant said.
Steele regains stroke
Steele, a sophomore, made only 1 of 10 shots (1 of 8 from 3-point range) at South Carolina and missed his first five shots against Arkansas. But he found his stroke in the second half.
During a four-minute span, Steele scored all 12 of his points – on three 3-pointers and three free throws. That helped MSU open up a 62-40 lead.
“I got on him at halftime for turning one down,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “He turned a shot down because he had missed some, but Jalen is one of those guys, you well know, is capable of jumping up and making shots.”
Hood off bench
Hood came off the bench for the second straight game as he continues to nurse a bruised knee bone. The freshman logged 21 minutes, recording three points, three rebounds and two assists.
Stansbury isn’t sure when or if Hood might return to the starting lineup.
“I’m not worried about that,” Stansbury said. “He’s going to play. The more he’s healed up, the more minutes he’ll play.”
Bost and Bryant weren’t the only seniors recognized Saturday. It was also a special day for 6-foot-8 Taylor Luczak, a walk-on.
He got in the game late along with the rest of the walk-ons – a.k.a., the Gold Team – and knocked down a jumper. It was Luczak’s first field goal of the season.
“I figure senior night I had to go out with some kind of bang,” Luczak said.