March 21, 2010 12:13:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- For two Mississippi State players, Saturday wasn''t the way to end a career.
Seniors Barry Stewart and Jarvis Varnado ended their Mississippi State careers in disappointment Saturday as the Bulldogs were edged 76-74 by North Carolina in the second round of the NIT.
But as MSU coach Rick Stansbury pointed out, every senior in America has their career come to a disappointing end accept the ones who hoist the NCAA, NIT and CIT championship trophies.
"That feeling will come sooner than you think for everybody in this room," Stansbury said. "Don''t let that take away from what you accomplished. We stayed together through all the adversity we had and there will be only two teams that won''t have this feeling at the end of the year: the team that wins the national championship and the team that wins the NIT.
"I hurt four our two seniors right now."
Stansbury loses two of the best defenders he''s ever coached at MSU and the unquestioned anchors of the Bulldogs the last two seasons.
Stewart ends his career as Mississippi State''s all-time leader in 3-point field goals made and is fourth all-time in steals.
Varnado holds the NCAA career blocked shots record, and on Saturday tied his own Southeastern Conference single-season mark with 170.
Varnado played in 141 games during his MSU career and went just eight contests without blocking a shot.
The pair ended their MSU careers in the top 11 of MSU''s all-time career scorers.
"It''s been a hell of a ride, you know?" Varnado said. "Me and Barry won a lot of championships. I''m thankful for that. The atmosphere. They love their Bulldogs and we love them back."
Stewart showed the most emotion at the post-game press conference as the six-day stretch of losing to Kentucky in overtime of the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game and subsequently being left out of the NCAA tournament as a result showed in his body language.
"It''s something you can''t describe," Stewart said of walking off the Humphrey Coliseum court for the last time. "It has been fun here. There was a good turnout today and I appreciate the fans who cheered for us these last four years."
Stewart capped his career with a game-high 18 points, including a pair of free throws to tie the score 74-74 with 8.9 seconds left.
"I wouldn''t have wanted anybody else at the line but Barry Stewart," Stansbury said.
Varnado had 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
Stewart''s and Varnado''s contributions this year could be seen in the stat sheet and defensively, but the amount of minutes they played night in and night out probably told a bigger story of how important they were to the Bulldogs.
Stewart played a game-high 36 minutes and Varnado played 29, which is right around his season average.
Varnado migh have played more if not for picking up a knock to the head in the second half and going to the bench for a couple of minutes.
"It''s a sad feeling to know it''s the last time you''re going to have that jersey on," Stansbury said. "Barry and Jarvis have been special players for us. Couldn''t ask for two better players for us.
"How proud of them I am. These guys have been a part of four championships. Timmy Bowers may be the only other guy in school history who can say that. That''s good company."