December 17, 2009 9:26:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Barry Stewart has a continuous motor.
It was in high gear Wednesday night for the Mississippi State men''s basketball team.
Not only did Stewart have to chase Wright State guard Troy Tabler around the court, but he also saved enough energy to lead the Bulldogs with a season-high 21 points in an 80-69 victory in front of a crowd of 4,721 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Stewart said the effort was just his competitive nature coming out.
"Every night I take the challenge of guarding the best player from the other team, and usually I''m on the best guard," Stewart said. "(Wednesday night) I took the challenge offensively. I felt great warming up and the extra shooting helped. I was in rhythm from the start and felt like I could make anything out there."
The Bulldogs (8-2) know they are going to get defense from Stewart every game, but they welcomed the offensive spark he gave against the Raiders.
"Barry is our best defensive player," MSU guard Ravern Johnson said. "(On Wednesday) he was knocking down everything, so we just gave him the ball because he deserves it."
Stewart was 8 of 11 from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range, for his ninth career 20-point game at MSU.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury always credits Stewart for his defense, but he said Wednesday "was just Barry''s night" on offense.
"Not that anybody else played bad, but Barry jumped up and made a lot of shots," Stansbury said.
With five 3-pointers, Stewart has 224 for his career, which is 34 shy of Darryl Wilson''s school record of 258.
One of Stewart''s 3-pointers Wednesday came at an important time.
After Wright State had cut MSU''s largest lead of 17 points down to 73-64 with 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the game, Stewart hit a shot from long range to push the advantage to 76-64.
Younger players in the program are inspired by how Stewart performs.
"It makes me want to work even harder because he''s a senior and a great leader," MSU sophomore point guard Dee Bost said. "He sets good examples for us on and off the court. When he''s going hard and playing good defense, it helps me."
Jarvis Varnado added 17 points, Johnson had 13 points, and Romero Osby scored 10 in a balanced effort for the Bulldogs, who won their fifth game in a row.
"It''s hard to take one weapon away," Stansbury said. "Everybody is not going to be at their best every night. We have some different parts at different times on different nights that can step up and make plays."
Tabler scored 22 points for the Raiders (6-4), while Ronnie Thomas added 14 points, Todd Brown had 12 points and Vaughn Duggins added 10 points.
"Those guys make you grind it out and play a style that''s different," Stansbury said. "This was a quality win."
n NOTES: Varnado had six blocked shots to give him 53, which leads the nation. He has 447 career blocks, which moves him past Deng Gai of Fairfield (442) and Ken Johnson of Ohio State (444) into sixth all-time in NCAA history. ... Bost had a career-high 11 assists. ... The Bulldogs hit a season-high 63 percent (29 of 46) from the field. ... John Riek entered the game with 27.5 seconds remaining in his first game eligible to play. Stansbury said the team will move forward to see where Riek can help. ... Freshman forward Wendell Lewis scored a career-high seven points. ... Donald Jackson, the attorney for MSU freshman Renardo Sidney, sent out a text message saying the NCAA Eligibility Center has requested additional interviews with the Sidney family next week. The NCAA is continuing its investigation into Sidney''s status as an amateur athlete. "After several days of interviews in Los Angeles and Mississippi, the NCAA has still not established the existence of any violations in the Renardo Sidney matter," Jackson said.