By MATTHEW STEVENS
The purpose of bringing in a junior-college talent like Brian Bryant to your program is instant productivity.
Eight games into the 2010-11 season that’s exactly what Mississippi State got out of its lead guard Monday night as the Northwest Florida State college transfer went for a career high 22 points to go with seven rebounds while being on the floor for all but three minutes of State’s 67-58 victory over Nicholls State.
“I'm feeling more comfortable playing under (Mississippi State head coach Rick) Stansbury and I'm just trying to do what he asked me to do,” Bryant said.
The victory was the second in row for Mississippi State (6-2) and means they are more than halfway through its five-game in five-day stretch as the Bulldogs uncharacteristically played a 2-3 zone throughout the evening.
“Tonight was a scary game in a lot of ways because if you come in here and guard them a certain way, they’re very difficult to defend and we didn’t play one trip of man-to-man,” Stansbury said.
Having this be the third night of basketball in as many days for the Bulldogs squad, Stansbury knew his team would be mentally and physically tired so the switch to zone helped MSU’s starting five not have to chase around the hybrid version of the swing offense.
“I don’t mind admitting that five games in five days would give us a great chance,” Nicholls State head coach J.P. Piper said. “Probably as good a chance as I’ll ever have to beat these guys.”
The Nicholls State (4-4) offense, which allowed them to win at LSU less than a month ago, involved constant perimeter passing and cutting before launching a back-breaking open shot with time running out in the shot clock. This is the slow-down but efficient pace Piper, a
former high school coach from Baton Rouge, wanted and the results were a 50-percent shooting performance along with a 27-26 lead with 2:49 left in the opening half.
Mississippi State used a pair of three-pointers by senior guard Ravern Johnson and a emphatic dunk by forward Kodi Augustus to go into the locker room on a 10-0 run holding a 36-27 halftime lead.
“I still don’t know what happened to be honest with you,” Piper said. “(Before) four minutes I thought we played the way we wanted and had the pace. Just that little spot right there was the game.”
Johnson led all scorers with 23 points, 18 of which came in the first half, as the Lyon native was 5-for-9 from beyond the three-point arc.
The guard combo of Johnson and Bryant were the only double-figure efforts from MSU Monday night as the two managed to make 64 percent on three-pointers and all eight shots from the foul line.
When Nicholls State got the Bulldogs advantage down to seven at the final media timeout, Mississippi State used a defensive stand and free throws from Bryant to never let the lead get any closer than that.
Nicholls State senior forward Anatoly Bose, which had 20 or more points in every game coming into Starkville, left Humphrey Coliseum with 17 points on 4-for-11 shooting and struggled to a 1-for-8 figure from three-point range.
“We played a no catch on Bose,” Stansbury said. “He’s the guy that makes it happen for them. Keeping the ball out of his hands was huge. We kept him from being a factor all night long.”
Mississippi State will try to make it three in a row tonight in a contest that’s completely free to the public as they host Alabama State for 7 p.m. tip-off. After that game, the Bulldogs will head to Jackson for an exhibition game against NAIA Belhaven in the college
basketball debut of sophomore forward Renardo Sidney.