STARKVILLE – Barry Stewart is sometimes the forgotten weapon for Mississippi State, but he was at his gun-blazing best Wednesday night.
The senior guard, known more for his defensive savvy, scored a season-high 21 points and hit some rally-stifling shots in MSU’s 80-69 win over a pesky Wright State team in front of 4,721 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
Stewart entered the game averaging 10.7 points and was shooting just 35.6 percent from the field, including 34 percent from 3-point range. On Wednesday, he made 8 of 11 shots and 5 of 7 from behind the arc.
“Extra shooting always helps,” said Stewart, who now has nine career 20-point games. “It gets you in a rhythm, and I was in a rhythm tonight. I felt like I could make them, and I did.”
MSU (8-2) won its fifth in a row thanks to some timely shooting by Stewart and others.
A 17-point second-half lead was whittled to nine points thanks to a State scoring drought of 5 minutes, 37 seconds. Senior center Jarvis Varnado broke the skid with a hook shot, but Wright State (6-4) didn’t go away.
The Raiders cut it back to 10 on a Troy Tabler 3-pointer, but Stewart answered with a three of his own. Stewart drained another 3 with 3:04 to go to make it 76-64 and quell the threat.
“I knew Barry Stewart was good,” Wright State coach Brad Brownell said, “but a couple of those threes that he just jumped over us and shot it in, with five or six seconds on the shot clock, in all honesty I had to tell my guys, ‘Good defense; it’s just better offense.’”
MSU shot a season-high 63 percent for the game and hit 12 of 25 from 3-point range (48 percent). Varnado had 17 points – on 6-of-6 shooting – eight rebounds and six blocks.
Ravern Johnson added 13 points, and Romero Osby chipped in 10 big points off the bench.
“As I’ve said, it’s hard to take one weapon away, and everybody’s not going to be at their best every night,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “Tonight was Barry’s night.”
Point guard Dee Bost had a career-high 11 assists. He had four of MSU’s 18 turnovers, but for the most part he directed a smooth-flowing offense.
‘Make things happen’
“They’re really help-conscious,” Bost said of Wright State’s defense, “so coach told us just to let things happen, because they clog the lane, and get Jarvis the ball and make things happen.”
Tabler led Wright State with 22 points.
MSU never trailed, although it saw a 29-16 lead cut to 29-27 in the first half. The Bulldogs pushed the lead back to 43-31 by halftime.
Even though MSU’s lead continued to accordion in the second half, Stansbury was happy to come out with a win as he prepares his team for a trip to Houston on Saturday.
“Was it perfect? No,” he said. “But hey, I’ll take a win against a good team.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal