February 2, 2010 9:24:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Ravern Johnson''s evolution into an all-around player is starting to catch up to his frame and measurables, which is right on time for the Mississippi State men''s basketball team.
MSU (16-5, 4-2 Southeastern Conference), losers of two of its last three games entering Wednesday''s road match against Vanderbilt, has seen its once potent perimeter shooting simmer to a cold stir on the road and at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU''s .284 3-point shooting percentage in its past seven games has highlighted a rough spell that has quietly left a footnote to the Bulldogs'' 4-2 start in the league.
Johnson, who has seen his 3-point shooting dip drastically after going 3 of 24 in the past four games, has remained an offensive factor despite his struggles.
The junior wing has scored in double figures in three consecutive games, including team highs of 19 points against Arkansas and 15 against LSU.
Johnson hasn''t scored like he did for most of the first half of this season, and has had to find other ways to generate offense and to keep the team in the game.
Johnson''s been more prone to take the lane on the fast break instead of looking for the deep 3-pointer. His ability to use his quickness and 6-foot-7 frame to create has provided an added dimension.
"I take it as a learning experience and just find out I have to do other things to help the team," Johnson said Monday. "My last year, really, I couldn''t put the ball on the floor, and if I wasn''t making shots you really couldn''t tell I was on the floor. I knew this year that when my shot was off I''d have to do more driving to try and create for others."
Johnson''s progression through the slump has been a welcome sight for MSU coach Rick Stansbury, who commented Monday''s on Johnson''s resourceful scoring methods
"That''s what you got to do sometimes," Stansbury said.
Finding different ways to score when the jumper isn''t falling is a plus, but the Bulldogs'' scoring will continue to be off without the rest of the sharpshooters on the same page.
Point guard Dee Bost''s woes of late include a 2-of-10, six-turnover performance in a loss at Arkansas. Point guard Courtney Fortson torched the Bulldogs for 35 points and had his way off the dribble.
Bost showed it Monday, even after his squad snapped a two-game skid with a 67-51 home win over LSU. He admitted winning eases the frustration of not playing well lately, but he wasn''t too open Monday to talk about it.
"I''m not going to go into details about it," Bost said. "(I need) to try to get on the same page as everybody and work things out."
Bost could be feeling the pressure of leading the team, and MSU''s guard-oriented lineup needs his return to form if the Bulldogs hope to hold on to top spot in the SEC West.
"We''re limited a little bit in how many ways we can score," Stansbury said. "We try to get the ball in there to Jarvis as much as you can. This shooting is a very fragile thing. It would be different as I said if you had good shooters taking bad shots. But I''d say for sure the last two games, we''ve had good looks.
"Second half (against LSU), we loosened up some a little bit and knocked some down, but we''ve lost some of that confidence shooting. That''s something you''ve got to fight through."
MSU''s shooters still have the green light, however.
Johnson said the team still will look to take advantage of transition looks, while focusing on utilizing more of the shot clock in the half court.
"You don''t want to turn down open shots, but we still can''t up and force a quick three in our half court offense," Johnson said. "Probably five seconds off the shot clock, we''ll shoot a three or have a bad shot instead of waiting. Transition shots and kickouts from the low post, I guess those are the shots we need to get more."