December 4, 2009 8:48:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men''s basketball coach Rick Stansbury knows St. Bonaventure center Andrew Nicholson will be a difficult matchup.
The toughest thing for the Bulldogs about facing Nicholson is center Jarvis Varnado might have his shot-blocking hand taped up.
Varnado dislocated two fingers on his left hand last week attempting to block a shot against Old Dominion. Stansbury isn''t sure how much he''ll be able to help against the Bonnies at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"He''ll go, but the question is how effective is he going to be?" Stansbury said. "He hasn''t done anything all week long. It''s a huge challenge. You''ve got to be at your best to guard (Nicholson). He''s a load. If Jarvis isn''t in there, it gets to be another challenge."
Stansbury liked Nicholson''s pro potential last year after seeing him score 13 points and grab nine rebounds in MSU''s 76-71 victory against St. Bonaventure.
This season, Nicholson is averaging 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Bonnies (4-2).
At 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, Stansbury knows Nicholson can present some problems for his short-handed front line.
"He''s improved in every area," Stansbury said. "He''s not a big strong guy, but very athletic and scores around that hole with a right-hand jump hook and a left-hand jump hook."
With Elgin Bailey still slowed by an ankle injury, Stansbury has used junior Kodi Augustus some at center to give Varnado a rest.
Even though all he has been able to do in practice this week is jog, Varnado isn''t worried about his injured fingers and said he''ll be "fine" and ready Saturday.
Senior guard Barry Stewart (sprained wrist) also is playing through pain. When asked about their injuries, Varnado and Stewart shrugged them off as no big deal and know how valuable the upcoming stretch of games are.
Being able to play hurt is another way Varnado and Stewart lead by example.
"Everybody knows (Jarvis and Barry) are not going to talk your ears off," Stansbury said. "That''s what they are. I''d rather have guys who lead by example rather than guys who talk and don''t do it."
Stansbury still plans to put Stewart on St. Bonaventure''s best offensive player in the perimeter, probably Chris Matthews (13.3 points per game).
"Whoever you put him on, he will lock him down," Stansbury said. "He did that both nights down at (the South Padre Island) tournament."
MSU (4-2) will take on DePaul in Tampa, Fla. (Dec. 10), UCLA (Dec. 12) in Anaheim, Calif. before returning home to play Wright State (Dec. 16).
Stewart said the Bulldogs have been concentrating on all aspects of their game to prepare for what''s ahead.
"It''s going to be tough going from one side of the country to the other, but I know the coaches will have us prepared," Stewart said.