By Brad Locke and Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Barry Stewart was a bit surprised when he first viewed the 2009-10 basketball schedule and saw that his Mississippi State team’s SEC opener would be at Ole Miss.
Not exactly the ideal place to jump into league play, especially considering the Bulldogs were coming off a sloppy 55-52 loss to Western Kentucky five days earlier. That didn’t matter to Stewart.
“I saw Ole Miss on the schedule first, and I was like, “Hmm?” We haven’t played Ole Miss first since I’ve been here, home or away,” said Stewart, a senior guard. “As it got closer, the rivalry and things got exciting, and blood got to pumping.”
The blood was really pumping for the Bulldogs after they exited Tad Smith Coliseum with an 80-75 victory on Saturday. It wasn’t just a win, it was a road win against an arch-rival that entered the game ranked No. 14 in the country.
“Any time you go on the road and win in this league, it’s special,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “I don’t care where you’re at. Because it’s just not easy to go on the road and win.”
It was the second consecutive win in Oxford for MSU (13-3, 1-0 SEC). But now it’s time to move on and focus on Thursday’s game against Arkansas.
“It doesn’t count as two wins,” Stansbury said. “It’s one win.”
Big 2 stifled
Chris Warren and Terrico White have been the top scoring threats for Ole Miss all season long, ranking fourth and sixth in the SEC in points per game.
Combined, they’ve averaged 34.2 points.
Mississippi State, the SEC team leader in field goal defense, held Warren and White to a combined 24 points on 9-for-27 shooting.
“We know we didn’t play to our potential, but if we correct things we’ll be OK,” Warren said.
White had scored 50 points and hit 12 3-pointers in the last two games. He was 1-for-5 from the arc, his only 3-pointer coming with 1:21 to play.
Warren was 3-for-8 from 3-point range.
White had a game-high 21 points the last time the two teams met, an 82-80 MSU win here last March.
Big off the bench
Against Western Kentucky, MSU’s bench scored a season-low two points. Against Ole Miss, the reserves totaled seven points, but they did just what Stansbury wanted.
“It doesn’t mean they added to a lot, but they maintained,” he said. “And that’s been a struggle for us.”
MSU has been shorthanded with injuries knocking out key reserves like Elgin Bailey and Twany Beckham. Freshman Wendell Lewis, center Jarvis Varnado’s backup, was held out Saturday due to what Stansbury called “a coaching decision,” which meant more minutes for Sudanese freshman John Riek.
Plus, said Stansbury, “I just thought it was time to give John a chance.”
In four minutes, Riek had one rebound, one block and three fouls.
“He gave me some minutes on the bench, and he came in, blocked a shot, got some rebounds,” Varnado said. “That’s what we want John to do.”
Strong game for Henry
While starting center Murphy Holloway struggled, the Rebels got good play in the post from backup Terrence Henry, particularly on defense.
Henry, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots in 19 minutes. He was especially effective in keeping MSU center Jarvis Varnado out of an offensive rhythm.
Varnado was just 2-for-7 from the floor.
“Coach told me he was going to his left shoulder all the time. I just tried to front him, not let him get deep touches and when he got to his left shoulder just contest it and put both hands up,” Henry said.
Freshman Reginald Buckner played well off the bench, too, with eight points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Holloway entered the game averaging 11.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was held scoreless and had only one rebound.