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MSU overcomes Varnado foul trouble


Danny P Smith



STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men''s basketball coach Rick Stansbury has no problem with what Phil Turner provides off the bench. 


Although there were some anxious moments in the post Monday night when senior center Jarvis Varnado got into foul trouble and had to come out of the first half against Mississippi Valley State. 


Freshmen Wendell Lewis and John Riek pieced together what they could and helped the Bulldogs beat Mississippi Valley 73-45 in front of 5,421 at Humphrey Coliseum. 


Turner scored 12 points in 19 minutes subbing for Kodi Augustus at one forward position, but Riek and Lewis combined for six points and six rebounds in 21 minutes. 


That didn''t set well with Stansbury and was very disappointed in Lewis'' production. He said Riek has an excuse being his background of being from Sudan. 


"John''s deal is not going to be his fault," Stansbury said. "He''s got so many things he''s fighting in trying to fit in this time of the year and learn. It''s difficult for a guy who doesn''t understand what''s going on. For a guy who has no clue what''s going on, it''s absolutely impossible for him. 


"John''s going to give a great effort, but we''ve got to get him to understand a couple of things we tell him to do. We''ve got to simplify it the best we can for him. John''s going to give an honest effort out there. He''s going to do that." 


Riek entered the game with 5 minutes and 55 seconds remaining in the first half and played the remainder of the half. MSU went from a 27-20 lead to a 41-22 advantage by halftime with Varnado sitting. 


Varnado was glad to see Riek provide what he could after he picked up his second foul in the first half. 


"John came in and added to," Varnado said. "That''s what coach wants out of the bench." 


Lewis knew his performance was not up-to-par, but is already looking ahead to the next chance. 


"It gives us an opportunity to show the coach that we are ready to play and we can back (Varnado) up if he gets in foul trouble," Lewis said. 


When Augustus got off to a slow start, Turner showed he was up to the task as he scored all 12 of his points in the first half. 


Stansbury said Turner is always giving the energy and toughness he''s looking for from Lewis, Riek and the rest of the bench. 


"That''s what you''ve got to have and I don''t care who you are playing," Stansbury said. "Your five starters are not going to be their best every night. That''s why I keep saying the teams that win championships have those six, seven, eight and nine (players). Those guys have got to change the flow of the game those nights when the game is not going as well for the starting five. That''s what we need from Riley (Benock), Romaro (Osby) and Phil Turner." 


Turner made 3 of 5 field goals, including two from 3-point range, to help the Bulldogs expand their first-half lead. He also pulled down eight rebounds. 


MSU was out-rebounded 45-44 by Mississippi Valley, which Stansbury called "a bad stat." 


"He wasn''t too happy about that and we''re better than that," Varnado said. "I think we were just shaking off a little rust coming off the break." 


Ravern Johnson led MSU (11-2) with 22 points, while Barry Stewart added 11 points and Varnado chipped in 10 points. 


Shannon Behling scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Delta Devils (1-12). 


n Notes: Former Caledonia High School standout Darian Donald started for Mississippi Valley State and scored two points. Former Columbus High player Orlando Smith is also on the roster. ... MSU sophomore Romaro Osby wasn''t with the team for personal reasons, while freshman Renardo Sidney was taking an extended holiday break at home as he still awaits clearance by the NCAA. He will not make the trip for Thursday''s game at San Diego. ... With six blocked shots, Varnado has a nation-best 68 this season and 462 for his career. He is 73 blocks short of tying the NCAA record. ... Stewart added two 3-pointers to his career total, giving him 229. He is only 19 away from tying Daryl Wilson''s school-record of 258. ... The Bulldogs only had four turnovers, a season low and the fewest since they had four against Louisiana Tech in 2007. 




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