STARKVILLE – Mississippi State slipped on some rings, raised a banner, and then Rider spoiled the party.
After honoring its SEC Tournament championship from last spring, No. 18 MSU opened the 2009-10 campaign with an 88-74 loss to the Broncs of Lawrenceville, N.J., in front of 7,241 fans at Humphrey Coliseum on Friday night.
Rider was red hot from outside, and it showed no fear of MSU center Jarvis Varnado, going right at him with success. Varnado blocked seven shots, but the Broncs scored 36 points in the paint, compared to 30 for State.
“They were just better than us,” said 12th-year coach Rick Stansbury. “We did some things that added to them being successful, but I’m going to tell you, we had no answers for them in the second half.”
Rider, which is expected to challenge Siena and Niagara for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, shot 62.5 percent from 3-point range (10 of 16) and 50.8 percent overall. It’s led the MAAC in 3-point shooting the last three years.
Big men Mike Ringgold and Novar Gadson scored 21 points apiece for Rider. Ryan Thompson scored 16, and Justin Robinson added 15.
“We didn’t play defense at all,” Varnado said. “They just killed us.”
MSU raced to an 11-2 lead, but the Broncs got points off turnovers and hung tough, and they took a 40-39 lead on Robinson’s 3-pointer at the 1:17 mark of the first half. Rider led 44-42 at the break and had 18 points off turnovers at that point.
MSU committed 12 turnovers for the game to Rider’s six.
“We didn’t feel like there was big difference in our talent level and theirs,” Rider coach Tommy Dempsey said.
Junior Kodi Augustus had nine points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, and he had strong words after the game about his playing time and how Stansbury used Varnado to defend Ringgold.
“Ringgold, he’s just an unorthodox player, and he made some reverses on us. Let Jarvis keep … guarding him, I mean, he’s subbing him and taking him out,” Augustus said.
Augustus, who started the first nine games of last season before getting in Stansbury’s doghouse, played just five minutes in the first half.
“I want to be out there helping,” he said. “Who don’t? Crazy.”
Varnado led MSU with 22 points, while Dee Bost had 14 and Ravern Johnson added 10. Bost tweaked his ankle in the first half and wasn’t as effective afterward.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal