February 10, 2011 9:05:00 AM
David Miller -
STARKVILLE -- At this point of the season, it''s perhaps fitting the Mississippi State men''s basketball team has to deal with a new piece of adversity each day.
Against LSU, Dee Bost was limited with a strained Achilles'' tendon and the Bulldogs played without senior Ravern Johnson (suspension).
Both issues lingered Wednesday for MSU in its home game against Arkansas. The Bulldogs also had to handle the news that senior guard Riley Benock was questionable due to a shoulder injury he suffered Tuesday in a collision at practice.
None of it mattered, though, as Bost scored 18 points and Benock played 22 minutes to help MSU move into sole possession of second place in the Southeastern Conference''s Western Division with a 67-56 win.
"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 coach Rick Stansbury said. "I liked our togetherness. Nothing mattered out there tonight but winning."
The Bulldogs (13-10, 5-4 SEC) 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 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 season (12 points, four assists, seven rebounds, and two steals at LSU). He received numbing medicine and a steroid shot prior to the start of Wednesday''s game, 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 shootaround 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 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 field for eight points and grabbed six rebounds. Bryant, who was scoreless in two of MSU''s past three games, had nine points, five rebounds, two assists, and just one turnover in 20 minutes, the most 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. "That''s what he did today."
MSU''s 21 turnovers didn''t matter, though 12 of Arkansas'' 28 first-half points came off 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 (3 of 11 from the field, 2 of 6 3-pointers) in check after he''d knocked down two 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, had nine points.
The Razorbacks were 20 of 60 from the field, including 7 of 20 from 3-point range.
Arkansas coach John Pelphrey was disappointed his team couldn''t take advantage of the fact MSU went without a field goal in the final nine minutes. Arkansas cut MSU''s lead to seven with less than three minutes to play.
"It came down to us not making shots more than anything else," 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."
NOTES: MSU went 16 of 18 from the free-throw line and had a rebounding margin of plus-13, both season highs.