By MATTHEW STEVENS
Victory or not, Mississippi State’s role players know they can’t afford another disappointing outcome similar to what they showed Saturday.
In the Bulldogs 71-64 victory against then-No.24 Florida, only four MSU players registered in the scoring column. It was the first time that few players put up points since a 76-71 victory at Oklahoma on Feb. 10, 1996.
The players deep in the MSU rotation realize that type of effort isn’t going work on the road against the Western Division leader of the Southeastern Conference.
“It’s kind of crazy that we were able to beat a team of Florida’s caliber with only four guys scoring,” senior guard Riley Benock said.
Benock was one of the five guys that played who was held scoreless and it marked only first time since last season’s NIT second round loss to North Carolina when the 6-foot-4 guard was wiped off the scorebook.
“It’s definitely not something we want to be a recurring theme or anything like that,” Benock said. “We’re going to need more production from all across the board.”
Stansbury laughed off his disappointment in the bench production because he was too busy celebrating an upset over a nationally-ranked opponent.
“When you win, you look at that column over there (and) you don’t care if you have one guy, two guys, three guys (or) 13 guys score,” Stansbury said. “Naturally I’ve had games where 14 guys score and you lose the game.”
The 13-year head coach mentioned increasing production in the non-starters could be as easy as finishing layups from State’s inexperienced players during a key moment.
“I don’t think Wendell (Lewis) will miss three layups in a game again,” Stansbury said. “It’s an unusual stat but we need more off our bench. All of sudden you finish those layups…maybe that score isn’t what it is down the stretch.” Lewis, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward from Selma, Ala., is looking to build on the career high 10 points in last month’s 75-57 loss at Humphrey Coliseum to the Crimson Tide.
“It’s our turn to go back and pay them the favor of beating them in their place,” Lewis said. “We need to keep it going and keep pushing forward.”
That disappointing 18-point loss in Starkville marked the return of junior Dee Bost and sophomore Renardo Sidney from suspensions and the Bulldogs (11-9, 3-3 in SEC play) couldn’t find any chemistry on either end of the floor.
“I feel like we’re a lot better,” Bost said. “We didn’t really have too much time to work together. This game right here will determine a lot.”
In that victory in Starkville, Alabama forward JaMychal Green surprised State defenders with his ability to step out and sink 15-foot jump shots over Lewis and fellow McDonald’s All-American selection Sidney.
“We have to have more attention to his ability to shoot that basketball out there at that perimeter,” Stansbury said. “(Green) was one of the two top or three centers coming out as a senior in high school. Everybody projected he’d be in college one year, now he’s back for his junior year.”
With Alabama (13-7, 5-1) still leading the league in scoring defense (57.3 points per game), Stansbury describes his view of this upcoming contest in Coleman Coliseum tonight (7 p.m., SEC Network) as a ‘ugly game.'
“It’s going to be a grind-out game because defensively they’re really good,” Stansbury said. “It used to be pressing teams, running and gunning with the Florida’s and Kentucky’s and that tempo stuff that everybody wanted to do. You don’t see a lot of that anymore.”
Alabama hasn’t swept the season series with the Bulldogs since 2005 and if they are able to do so, they’ll have a two-game lead with a tiebreaker over every team in the Western Division.
“Our guys understand our roles better, and with the experiences we had in November and December, I think we learned a lot," Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. "The success we've had of late has given our team some confidence as far as what we're capable of doing."