November 21, 2009 11:53:00 PM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Jarvis Varnado will get a rest from questions about records and blocked shots -- at least for a while.
The Mississippi State senior center had four blocked shots Saturday night to become the Southeastern Conference''s all-time leader in that category.
Varnado also tied for team-high scoring honors with 10 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 67-51 victory against Bethune-Cookman before a crowd of 3,721 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Varnado broke the record held by former LSU great Shaquille O''Neal (412) by blocking a shot by junior center Albert Abrahams with 10 minutes, 16 seconds remaining. It was his fourth and final block of the night, which leaves him at 413, or 123 away from breaking the all-time NCAA record of 535 held by Wojciech Mydra of Louisiana Tech (1998-2002).
"It is an honor just being mentioned with Shaquille," Varnado said. "I just thank God for it. Now I can move past it and worry about trying to win games."
Varnado admitted he was getting a little tired about people asking him if he had broken the blocked shots record. He smiled when asked how long he thought it would take for people to start asking him when he would break the NCAA mark.
"It is going to be a long way from that," Varnado said. "I have a lot more to go, so I am not going to worried about that."
Ravern Johnson, Dee Bost, and Barry Stewart each had 10 points, Phil Turner added nine, and Romero Osby had seven as the Bulldogs (2-1) pulled away in the second half. Varnado scored in the lane and added the free throw for a three-point play to cap a 13-4 run that gave the Bulldogs a 59-42 lead with 3 minutes, 44 seconds remaining.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury said early foul trouble by Turner, he picked up his second foul at the 17:13 mark, knocked his team out of its rhythm. He said it wasn''t until the second half that the Bulldogs found their footing and regained the momentum.
"In the second half, Phil Turner brought some energy and we all got and defended a little better and did things a little better," Stansbury said. "But you can''t have those moments that we had in the first half."
Stansbury congratulated Varnado for breaking the SEC record for blocked shots. He recalled when Varnado arrived at MSU as a 180-pounder. He said it is a credit to Varnado how much he has developed and how hard he has worked to improve.
"To be able to do something no other college player has ever done in the history of the SEC, it speaks for itself," Stansbury said. "It is an amazing feat. ... It is something he can talk to his grandkids about 70 years from now. It will be more important to him then."
Turner, who has played with Varnado the past two seasons, said it is special to watch Varnado to something special.
"It is amazing watching him in practice and playing with him in the games," Turner said. "He may not block the shot, but he alters a whole lot of shots and keeps a lot of guys from coming in there, so it makes out job a lot easier. Jarvis is a great player. I love playing with him."
Turner said Varnado hasn''t talked to him about breaking the record. He said Varnado is a "take-it-as-it comes" kind of player, who doesn''t get overwhelmed by things or doesn''t get caught up in the hype of breaking records.
Varnado said he hasn''t had any contact with O''Neal about breaking his record. He said he isn''t surprised that opposing post players have gone after him, and he hopes it continues.
"That''s what they''re supposed to do," Varnado said. "They can''t shy away from me. I know their coaches are telling them to take it to me, and I just have to get better each game with my defense."
n NOTES: Mississippi high school and middle school boys and girls basketball teams are invited to attend the Bulldogs'' home games against Texas-Pan American on Tuesday, St. Bonaventure (Dec. 5), Wright State (6 p.m.), and Mississippi Valley State (7 p.m.) free of charge as part of the "Holidays At The Hump" promotion. The coaches, players and bus drivers are all invited and must enter as a group. If you wish to attend any or all of the games, the MSU staff asks that you fax your roster and the names of the coaches and bus driver to 662-325-3648 no later than noon on the day of the game(s) you plan to attend. The fax must include the game(s) you plan to attend and a cell phone number of the head coach. For more information, call the MSU basketball office at 662-325-3800.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.