By MATTHEW STEVENS
Sundays are made for kicking back, relaxing and enjoying your surroundings.
That’s exactly what the Mississippi State basketball team did in its 74-58 win over North Carolina A&T in front of 2,119 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (5-2) used effective outside shooting and a career day from senior guard Riley Benock as the team captain recorded 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five three-pointers in 34 minutes of action.
“It was just one of those games we knew we had to step up and get a win so I was trying to be aggressive from the start,” Benock said. “It’s always good to relax and enjoy a win while we play a lot of guys.”
Over the last two contests, Benock had not been looking for his shot and totaled just seven points on 3-of-8 from the field. The Battletown, Ky., native even banked in a 37-footer in the second half with the shot clock winding down.
“Coach came to me tonight and told me if I had anything (open) to shoot,” Benock said. “Early they got mixed up on some switches and got some easy looks early.”
In a less than 24 hour turnaround off a disappointing 63-62 loss to East Tennessee State where common sense would say they would’ve have their legs, the Bulldogs defensive effort was high allowing the Aggies (5-4) to connect on just 8-of-31 shots from the field and kept A&T’s big man Thomas Coleman around his season averages (14 points and 12 rebounds) to cruise to victory.
“I think the biggest thing I was pleased about besides getting the win was I thought we had a decent response to (Saturday) night,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We could have very easily not had our sharpness mentally and let these guys hang around but we didn’t.”
North Carolina A&T, who had been on a four-game winning streak entering the Magnolia State, led 43 seconds into the game and that would be the last time they’d have the advantage all afternoon long.
Senior guard Ravern Johnson led the MSU scoring effort again with a game-high 17 points and the 6-foot-7 wing player did most of his damage during a 21-3 run to the end the first half and send the Bulldogs up by its largest 20-minute margin of the 2010-11 season.
“We were contesting their shot (and) they got great shots,” North Carolina A&T head coach Jerry Eaves said. “They definitely earned the win so hats off them and hopefully they’ll get all of their players back to have a good year.”
In a scary moment in the middle of the second half, State’s second-leading scorer Kodi Augustus appeared to injured himself as he dove into the first row of seats. The senior forward laid on his back until there was a stoppage of play but popped up immediately once MSU trainer Scotty Johnson got over to him.
After not scoring in the last five games, Shaun Smith scored a career-high six points in 14 minutes of playing time as the former Noxubee County star is trying to play his way through a chronic hip injury.
“For the first time all year, I got to play the bench a little bit through mistakes,” Stansbury said. “That’s what those guys need and back to our exhibition game, this was the first game that wasn’t a nail biter.”
Mississippi State will begin day three of this five-game in five-day stretch as Nicholls State comes to Starkville tonight for 7 p.m. tip-off.