January 28, 2010 9:53:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Rick Stansbury hasn''t spent a lot of time mulling over the history that could be made tonight.
In fact, the Mississippi State men''s basketball coach didn''t know about one mark that could be eclipsed and another that could be reached at 8 tonight (ESPN2) when MSU takes on Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena.
Stansbury is one win away from reaching 100 career victories in the Southeastern Conference. The 12th-year coach is the 15th all-time winningest coach in the SEC with a record of 246-132.
"I would love to get one more Thursday night," said Stansbury, who joked that he couldn''t sleep the night before thinking about the implications of the 100th victory. "The only one that matters is the next one."
Stansbury will be only 20th coach in the history of the SEC to get 100 victories in the league.
Senior Barry Stewart can take care of the other milestone if he plays 10 minutes. When he does, he will pass former standout Jeff Malone for the most minutes played in school history. Malone leads Stewart entering tonight''s game 3,851-3,842.
Stansbury would like to limit the minutes Stewart plays. Earlier this week, he talked about trying to find ways to rest Stewart (36.2 minutes per game), sophomore point guard Dee Bost (36.5 mpg.), and senior center Jarvis Varnado (36.5 mpg.) more. All three are ranked in the top 10 in the league in minutes played in conference games.
I am not able to play (Stewart) enough (at point guard) and, in turn, Dee Bost gets wore out," Stansbury said. "It''s not that Barry can''t play the point. He does a very good job there. The problem is when he goes to point lots of time he already is tired and he already has played a bunch of minutes as the two.
"I am probably not able to play him not enough minutes at the one to rest Dee more. That needs to happen, too. Both of those guys are averaging about 37 minutes a game. It is too much to be effective."
The Bulldogs (15-4, 3-1 SEC) will need all three at their best as they try to sweep the season series from the Razorbacks (8-11, 1-3). MSU edged Arkansas 82-80 on Jan. 14 at Humphrey Coliseum. Stansbury expects a difficult game because Arkansas is playing well and usually is an even more dangerous team when playing at home before a crowd of 19,200.
In the first meeting, Varnado had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots to become the first MSU player to record two career triple-doubles.
On defense, Stewart did a fine job on guard Rotnei Clarke, holding him to nine points on 2-of-9 shooting in 32 minutes.
Stansbury said the Bulldogs will need to know where Clarke is because he said players typically shoot better when they are at home. He also said his players must correct some issues on offense that hampered them Saturday in a 62-57 loss at Alabama. The defeat knocked the Bulldogs, who were No. 23, from the Associated Press Top 25.
"Alabama is a very good basketball team," Stansbury said. "I don''t think we came out and played them if we don''t respect them. We probably came out and weren''t at our best and Alabama came out and knocked down two threes and beat us in transition and went ahead 12-2 right off the bat. We took a couple of quick shots, and that is where you need to be more efficient."
Junior guard Phil Turner said he and the other players who come off the bench for the Bulldogs will have to contribute more so the starters can get more rest. He said Alabama "got into our legs" a little bit, which contributed to a 31.7-percent shooting effort (2 of 18 from 3-point range).
"I feel the bench is going to play a major part the farther we go down the stretch," Turner said. "It is a long season and it kind of tears your body down. The more you can rest your starters and the guys who play a lot, it is better for late-game situations."
Stewart said the Bulldogs have to be ready for pressure defense tonight. He said the key for the Bulldogs will be to establish the tempo of the game from the opening tip.
"I don''t think we come out as the aggressor a lot of times," Stewart said. "This past game we got down so early. It was 12-2 before we knew it. I don''t think we came out and with the take-it-to-them mentality."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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