November 26, 2010 8:30:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Three games into the season, nothing has surprised Mississippi State men''s basketball coach Rick Stansbury.
He has seen his young guards struggle to contribute and center Elgin Bailey fight through a slower-than-expected recovery from knee surgery.
His seniors also have carried the scoring load and raised their averages.
But Stansbury wasn''t sure how quickly the Bulldogs would develop an ability to win close games.
MSU (3-0) has done just that, rallying to beat Appalachian State and escaping a late three-point lead to beat Detroit 82-76 on Monday.
Stansbury''s lineup experiments have seen sophomore Wendell Lewis play power forward and center and senior guard Riley Benock play two guard spots and power forward.
So long as the Bulldogs continue to be resourceful, wins and continuity will continue.
"We got to keep finding ways to hide things we don''t do very well and keep finding ways to fit what we can do with this team," Stansbury said Monday night. "It''s going to be a mix and match and change with every game with us. Every team''s different. Tonight was different. That''s the first time we''ve seen a lot of zone (against Detroit), and they were big and strong on that inside."
MSU will play host to Troy (1-3) at 6 tonight at the midway point of a nine-game homestand.
The Trojans are in an injury bind similar to what the Bulldogs faced last season. While MSU was without three scholarship players due to injury, Troy enters tonight''s game with six scholarship players and one walk-on. The Trojans are without point guard Will Weathers and senior guard Travis Lee.
"This is a whole next experience for us," Troy coach Don Maestri said. "Our athletic trainer, Alyson Gramley, said the other day we have had more injuries this season than in her previous seven seasons total. I talked to (assistant head coach David) Felix about it and we couldn''t remember in our 29 years together ever dealing with this many injuries over a whole season, let alone the first three weeks."
Troy is coming off a road loss against Texas San-Antonio.
Against a depleted opponent, MSU will continue to take its opportunities in the fast-break game. Though it scored just nine fast-break points against Detroit, point guards Twany Beckham and Brian Bryant pushed the ball in transition and opened up jump shots for teammates. Beckham and Bryant combined for 10 assists against Detroit.
MSU has plenty of perimeter shooters, but transition basket will remain pivotal as its lineup continues to take shape.
"That''s one thing we''ve been working on in practice is point guards getting out trying to get early shots in the shot clock," Beckham said. "When we push it, we''re a better team. Me and Brian pushing it allows our shooters to get open and sometimes allows our posts to get open. We really feel we''re getting comfortable pushing the ball."
Beckham, who missed all of last season, and Bryant, a junior college transfer, are filling in for academically ineligible starter Dee Bost. Their progression is a positive sign for the Bulldogs, whom Stansbury said will need 45 points a game from seniors Kodi Augustus and leading scorer Ravern Johnson.
"He doesn''t talk about it, but we know you can''t just rely on two people to win games all the time," Benock said. "We got to step up, and it doesn''t necessarily have to be one or two people just across the board. (We) just have somebody step up or a couple of people step up to take the load off them."