MSU/Starkville sports blog: Bulldogs clear another hurdle in Arkansas win

February 9, 2011 10:48:00 PM

David Miller -

 

STARKVILLE -- At this point of the season, it''s perhaps fitting Mississippi State''s men''s basketball team deal with a new piece of adversity each day. 

 

Against LSU, it was Dee Bost being limited with a strained Achilles'' tendon and the beginning of Ravern Johnson''s suspension. 

 

Both issues lingered Wednesday for MSU''s home game against Arkansas. But thrown on top of was senior guard Riley Benock''s questionable status due to an ailing shoulder picked up in a collision during practice Tuesday. 

 

None of it mattered, though, as the Bulldogs got 18 points from Bost, 22 minutes from Benock and moved into sole possession of second place in the SEC West with a 67-56 win.  

 

"Let me say this, you''re always proud when your team wins, but I think what I''m most proud about was it was one of those gutsy efforts," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "I liked our togetherness. Nothing mattered out there tonight but winning." 

 

The Bulldogs (13-10, 5-4 Southeastern Conference) moved a game-and-half ahead of Arkansas in the West ahead of Saturday''s road game against Auburn. 

 

MSU hopes to have a fully fit Benock by the weekend, but just minutes before tip off against the Razorbacks he was still unsure if he''d play. 

 

The pain in his shoulder was comparable to that of a hip pointer, which limited his ability to lift his right arm above his head. For a shooter of Benock''s caliber, that wasn''t the best news to hear with Johnson out and Bost fighting through his foot injury.  

 

Benock was coming off his most complete performance of the year after posting 12 points, four assists, seven rebounds and two steals at LSU.  

 

The senior received numbing medicine and a steroid shot prior to tip-off and went through warmups before telling Stansbury he''d be available. 

 

"I planned to go into the game without Riley," Stansbury said. "Riley said, ''coach, let me try to go.'' We had scrambled during shoot-around to try and do some things with Brian (Bryant), Jalen (Steele) and Dee in the lineup." 

 

Though Benock didn''t start, he recorded a game-high three steals, scored four points and had three rebounds -- all without attempting a shot.  

 

"To his credit, he didn''t try to do something in the game he couldn''t," Stansbury said. "He defended, moved the ball and gave us some stability." 

 

Benock''s workman-like performance spread to MSU''s bench players, who responded with a season-high 21 points.  

 

Sophomore forward Wendell Lewis went 4 of 5 from the floor for eight points and grabbed six rebounds. Backup point guard Brian Bryant, who had gone scoreless in two of MSU''s last three games, finished with nine points, five rebounds, two assists and just one turnover.  

 

Bryant played 20 minutes, the most he''s logged in a league game this season. 

 

"This whole week, I''ve been telling Brian step up, it''s your time, you got to grow up and mature and be a player," Bost said. "And that''s what he did today." 

 

MSU''s 21 turnovers didn''t matter in the end, though 12 of Arkansas'' 28 first-half points came off MSU giveaways. 

 

It was about the only bugaboo for the Bulldogs, who used a 23-6 run to build a 58-42 second-half lead. MSU got a pair of 3-pointers from Bost and one from Bryant during the run and held Arkansas guard Rotnei Clark in check after he''d knocked down to 3-pointers to give Arkansas a 36-35 lead.  

 

MSU expressed concern over guarding Clarke off ball-screens but saw freshman Jalen Steele step up to the challenge.  

 

"[Clarke] didn''t come off a ball screen where he got free looks," Stansbury said. "I don''t think of those 11 shots there was a lot of open looks. He was rushed off a ball screen somewhere every time." 

 

Clarke, Arkansas'' leading scorer, finished with nine points.  

 

The Razorbacks endured a tough night from the floor, finishing 20 of 60 overall and 7 of 20 from beyond the 3-point arc.  

 

Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey was disappointed his team couldn''t take advantage of the Bulldogs not scoring a field goal for the final nine minutes of the game.  

 

Still, Arkansas was able to cut MSU''s lead to seven with under three minutes to play.  

 

"It came down to us not making shots more than anything else," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "There were a lot of runs in that game, and we had a chance to make another run there late, but we just couldn''t score the ball." 

 

The Bulldogs return to the court Saturday at Auburn.  

 

NOTES: MSU went 16 of 18 from the free throw line and had a rebounding margin of plus-13, both season highs.