December 14, 2010 8:30:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Brian Bryant scored a career-high 22 points Monday night to help the Mississippi State men''s basketball team beat Nicholls State 67-58.
Bryant made the most of his third straight start of the season, opening the scoring with a dunk before knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the first eight minutes.
Bryant was 7 of 9 from the floor, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range, and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
The junior college transfer''s scoring was a welcome sight for MSU, which relied on Riley Benock to complement leading scorer Ravern Johnson on Sunday in a victory against North Carolina A&T.
"He was a little bit more relaxed, and that''s what we need from him," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "You need your point guard to be able to make plays, particularly where we are right now. He''s a guy that''s very capable of manufacturing baskets. He can manufacture many different ways."
Bryant also led MSU (6-2) with seven rebounds and two steals, flashing the versatility Stansbury raved about when he got to campus.
Bryant played a career-high 37 minutes, as Twany Beckham, who tweeted he has been "under the weather for two days," played just three minutes. Bryant and senior Riley Benock played all but six minutes at the two guard spots.
Bryant appreciated Stansbury''s faith to keep him in the game, which let him build rhythm with the starters.
"It helped me a lot, just staying out there playing and having the chance to play through my mistakes," Bryant said. "I try to drive and penetrate to get Riley and Ray shots, and Kodi spots up, too, so the chemistry is getting there."
Johnson (23 points) was the only other MSU player Monday to reach double figures. He was 5 of 9 from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs have struggled to find other consistent scoring threats besides Johnson, who entered the game averaging more than 23 points per game.
Senior forward Kodi Augustus has made more than five field goals just once this season and hasn''t cracked double figures in the past three games.
On Sunday, Benock had a career-high 15 points to lessen the load on Johnson
On Monday, Bryant picked up the slack and gave MSU its second straight win after back-to-back losses.
"Any time a team comes in and tries to take one of us away, one of us has to come up big," Johnson said.
MSU built a a 24-17 lead in the first half thanks to a 12-5 run, but was a furious rally by Nicholls gave the Colonels a 27-26 lead with 2 minutes, 48 seconds left in the half.
Three-pointers from Johnson and a Augustus dunk capped a 10-0 MSU run that helped the Bulldogs close the half with a 36-27 lead.
Though the Colonels (4-4) shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, leading scorer Anatoly Bose struggled. Bose scored 36 against Oklahoma State and entered the game averaging 25.4 points per game, which ranked fourth in the country.
MSU played zone against the motion offense of the Colonels, who have been successful running down the shot clock and making teams chase the ball before finding an opening for a score.
But Bose never found his zone. The Australian forward finished with 17 points but was 1 of 8 from behind the arc and had just seven points in 32 minutes.
"I thought our guys did a great job of doing one thing tonight in a quick scouting report plan: We kind of played a ''no-catch'' on Bose," Stansbury said. "Keeping the ball out of his hands was huge. We kept him not being a factor all night long."
MSU led by as many as 13 in the second half before seeing its lead dwindle to six by the nine-minute mark, but a pair of jumpers from Johnson and eight points from Bryant down the stretch sealed the game.
MSU will play host to Alabama State at 7 tonight. Fans will be admitted to the game free. Season-ticket holders will have first priority on seats.
1. QBs shine for MSU in spring game COLLEGE SPORTS
2. MSU baseball drops another SEC series COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Team Elite Mississippi wins title in Birmingham LOCAL SPORTS
4. Tailbacks step into spotlight in spring game COLLEGE SPORTS
5. No. 12 Tennessee takes first two from MSU COLLEGE SPORTS