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November 15, 2008

Bulldogs open season with victory over Gents

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's Ravern Johnson hit five 3-point baskets and scored a team-high 15 points as the Bulldogs defeated Centenary College 77-55 in a season-opening men's basketball game Saturday afternoon in the Humphrey Coliseum.

The Bulldogs scored the game's first seven points and never trailed in the contest. MSU improved to 9-2 in season openers under Coach Rick Stansbury and is now 76-21 all-time in season openers.

"The game wound up as we had expected," Stansbury said. "It is a good to play a game where an opponent presents you new challenges. Centenary plays a 1-3-1 zone, and we really had not worked on our zone offense. In the second half, we did a better job of moving the ball inside and getting better shots."

MSU set the tone from 3-point range early. Dee Bost and Johnson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to help the Bulldogs spring from the gates. Those two treys would be the first of 10 for the hosts in the contest. The early lead stretched to double digits at 17-7 on a jumper from Riley Benock.

In the opening half, the Bulldogs used a five-on-five rotation as the search for consistency and set lineups will continue in non-conference play. Another 7-0 run allowed the Bulldogs to take their largest first-half lead, at 30-15. In the opening half, the Bulldogs only shot 36.7 percent from the field, yet managed a 34-20 lead at the intermission.

In the second half, the defensive pressure allowed the lead to grow quickly. A jumper by Jacquiese Holcombe ran the advantage to 51-31 with 13:03 remaining. MSU took its largest lead at 27 points on two different occasions in the closing minutes.

"It feels real good to get the first game out of the way," MSU junior forward Jarvis Varnado said. "We had times where we played well. We also saw the things that we need to keep working on to get better."

Johnson paced the MSU attack with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. Barry Stewart added 13 points. Elgin Bailey was also in double figures with 10 points, including three different ram-rattling dunks. Jarvis Varnado just missed a double-double, collecting 9 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. A total of 15 MSU players saw action, with 12 of the Bulldogs seeing at least 15 minutes of game action.

Nick Stallings led Centenary with 16 points, while Chase Adams added 15 points for the Gents. Stallings and Anthony Gatlin each had a team-high 7 rebounds.

For the contest, the Bulldogs converted 27 of 58 shots for 46.6 percent. MSU was 10 of 22 from 3-point range (45.5 percent) and 13 of 20 from the foul line (65.0 percent). The Bulldogs held a 45-38 advantage in rebounding. MSU was credited with 17 assists but also turned the ball over 17 times, as well. Defensively, MSU did collect an amazing 15 blocked shots as a team.

Centenary converted on 20-of-65 shot attempts (30.8 percent), including a 9 of 22 night from 3-point range (40.9 percent). The Gents were 6 of 11 at the foul line (54.5 percent). Centenary had 12 assists and committed 18 turnovers.

The Bulldogs return to action Monday with a 7 p.m. home game against Louisiana-Monroe.


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