December 15, 2009 12:25:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Ravern Johnson is picking up his game.
The Mississippi State junior guard''s improved play is helping him earn awards.
Johnson learned by text message Monday he had been named Southeastern Conference Player of the Week after his performances against DePaul and UCLA.
After a 14-point effort in the Bulldogs'' 76-45 victory against DePaul, Johnson poured in a career-high 29 points to lead MSU past UCLA 72-54. He averaged 21.5 points for week and now leads the team with 21.5 points per game.
Johnson and the Bulldogs play host to Wright State at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"I think I''ve been more relaxed, haven''t been forcing shots, and am taking good shots," Johnson said. "I''ve been in a good rhythm with my shot, and I felt like I couldn''t miss."
Johnson, who shot 43 percent from the field (156 of 362) last season and 40 percent from 3-point range (83 of 210), is hitting 55 percent from the field (51 of 93) and 48 percent from 3-point range this season.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury is pleased Johnson has added variety to his game.
"He scored a lot of two-point baskets (against UCLA)," Stansbury said. "You look at halftime, he had 16 points, but only had two 3-pointers. That''s all he had. That''s good for Ravern. He needs to score in other ways than just threes."
Stansbury has attempted to rest Johnson when he can. Johnson tied a season-high for minutes with 31 against UCLA.
"I probably haven''t played him the amount of minutes I did the other day when he''s playing good," Stansbury said. "Sometimes in those games he''s played well in, we get a little separation and I haven''t played him the amount of minutes."
The Bulldogs (7-2) take a four-game winning streak against Wright State. Johnson has shot 44 percent from 3-point territory in that stretch.
"We''ve got this winning mentality right now," Johnson said. "We just want to win."
Sidney still sits
MSU 7-foot-1 freshman John Riek will become eligible when the nine-game NCAA-mandated suspension ends, but the NCAA still hasn''t cleared Renardo Sidney still hasn''t been cleared.
Riek''s first game will be Wednesday, but Stansbury has no idea when or if Sidney will play this season. Sidney''s case was changed to "under review" as the NCAA continues to investigate his status as an amateur athlete.
"I''m not even going to speculate on any of that," Stansbury said. "I think we''ve all speculated now since September and October. I''ve had to move on and get this team (ready) because we''ve got to play games with or without (Sidney).
"When you get him, there will be some huge adjustments. His talent level allows him to fit in pretty quick. You''ve got to have the chemistry right. If it happens or when it happens, it will be a good problem to have."
Santa hat for Stew
Senior guard Barry Stewart was sporting a Santa Claus hat Monday when he entered Humphrey Coliseum for practice.
Stewart was secretive about where he got the hat, only to say it was a gift.
"I''m just getting into the Christmas spirit," Stewart said.
The hat aroused the curiosity of teammates like Phil Turner, who had no idea where Stewart got it.
"I asked him something about it," Turner said. "I didn''t give it to him."
Special ticket prices for next two home games
All high school students and younger will receive free admission to the men''s basketball team''s home games at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Wright State (ESPN2) and Dec. 28 against Mississippi Valley State.
In addition, the price of adult tickets for those same two games has been reduced to $5.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.mstateathletics.com or on gameday at the Humphrey Coliseum ticket office.
MSU also has a few $5 and $15 tickets remaining for the Dec. 22 game in Jackson against Centenary. Tickets for the game at Mississippi Coliseum can be purchased at www.mstateathletics.com or by calling 1-888-GODAWGS or 1-601-353-0603.
This and that
Stansbury said he was strongly considering a medical redshirt for junior forward Elgin Bailey, who still isn''t fully recovered from a dislocated ankle suffered last season. "Maybe now with another body (Riek), we''re at that point (to redshirt Bailey)," Stansbury said.
2. Harris, Heritage Academy will count on seniors to lead way HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Howland likes MSU's non-conference schedule COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Central Academy hopes to contend for state title HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Walters column: Prep football season coming closer LOCAL COLUMNS