By MATTHEW STEVENS
Tuesday night’s game was brought to you by the letter B.
Mississippi State’s version of the killer B’s totaled 35 points in its dominating 67-46 victory over Alabama State as the Bulldogs were led by a career-high 13 points and seven rebounds from junior forward Elgin Bailey.
“It’s just one of those games that you got to find ways to make more plays that the other team,” Stansbury said. “Glad to survive it and let’s move on.”
MSU’s combo of Bailey, senior Riley Benock and junior guard Brian Bryant accounted for not only half of the Bulldogs scoring production but each played at least 24 minutes in its fourth game in four days.
Even walk-on Brandon Bolen got on the floor and produced a perfect jump shot and a rebound in a career-high nine minutes of action.
Bailey, who is a team captain this season, spoke up with Mississippi State down 28-26 at halftime to try and ignite some energy into a team already missing its leading scorer. State had more turnovers (12) than field goals (9) in the opening 20 minutes while letting Alabama State (1-8) go into the locker room on a 13-5 run.
In the previous eight games of the season, the 276-pound post presence only had double figures in State’s 61-59 loss against Florida Atlantic.
“We came to the post quite a few times tonight and by us doing that, I was really successful,” Bailey said. “I was trying to prepare myself knowing one of my guys was out.”
Mississippi State was without senior guard Ravern Johnson after he was suspended for what university officials were calling violation of school’s class attendance policy. Stansbury said after the win that he knew he’d have to suspend the 6-foot-7 wing player, who came into Tuesday averaging a league-best 23.8 points per game, as the coaching staff receives daily attendance reports for all of its players.
“I knew about it a long time ago,” Stansbury said. “That’s when I wanted to do it.”
The Hornets, who came in the sixth-worst team in Division I basketball in scoring, missed 27 of its 34 second-half shots to lose its two-point halftime lead.
“With this team that we have now, we just don’t have that guy that can give us 16-18 points per night,” Alabama State head coach Lewis Jackson said. “We’re kind of just throwing it up and seeing if something falls.”
Mississippi State got a combined 22 points from the guard duo of Benock and Bryant hit half their shots (8-for-16) and Benock immediately got the momentum back for the Bulldogs with a three-pointer in the corner to give State its final lead of the night.
“The last few games Brian has really taken control of this team and that’s what you need out of your point guard,” Benock said. “He just seems to make plays when you need them.”
The Bulldogs used that positive energy to run off a 16-2 advantage through the first 12 minutes of the second half as their 2-3 zone defense forced ASU to miss 17 of 19 shots in that stretch.
“I thought the one thing our guys did in the second half was show a little grit,” Stansbury said. “They were tired and playing without Ravern, things were stacked against us.”
MSU will complete its five-game in five-night stretch with an exhibition game tonight in Jackson that will mark the college basketball debut of sophomore forward Renardo Sidney.
“I’m very excited, nervous (and) haven’t played in a year and a half and a lot of people have a lot of expectations out of me,” Sidney said. “I’m just worried about the things I’m going to do wrong and the things I’m going to right.”