December 15, 2010 10:02:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s men''s basketball team survived an Alabama State upset bid Tuesday with a 67-46 win to close its season-opening, nine-game homestand.
The Bulldogs (7-2) hope it''s the last time they''ll play without three starters.
As if MSU didn''t have a hard enough time getting by without suspended players Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney, leading scorer Ravern Johnson, who entered Tuesday averaging 23.8 points per game, was suspended for Tuesday''s game because of violating the university''s class attendance policy.
Stansbury said he knew "a long time ago" Johnson had missed too many classes but opted to sit the senior against struggling ASU.
Still, the Bulldogs dragged through a lackluster first-half showing, lacking energy and showing the effects of playing their fourth game in as many days.
MSU even went to seldom-used small forward Brandon Bolen to spell freshman Shaun Smith, who made is first career start in Johnson''s absence.
MSU trailed one-win Alabama State (1-8) 28-26 at the break after leading by as many as nine points in the first half.
"Our intensity was down to start with," MSU senior guard Riley Benock said. "There wasn''t any panic, but we knew we had to pick it up."
A combination of a collective scoring effort from the Bulldogs and a dismal second-half shooting performance from the Hornets helped MSU pull away for a comfortable win.
Alabama State started the second half just 2 of 20 from the floor and finished the game 18 of 62.
Ten Bulldogs scored points Tuesday and MSU outscored Alabama State 41-18 in the second half.
"It''s one of those games you just find a way to survive," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "That''s what we''re in, survival mode."
MSU center Elgin Bailey scored a career-high 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds to lead the Bulldogs to their third straight win.
Riley Benock and Brian Bryant each finished with 11 points.
Bailey said he heard of Johnson''s suspension Tuesday morning and opted to soak his ailing knee twice before the game.
He found life a little bit easier in the post against the undersized Hornets and turned in his third game of 23 minutes or more played in the last four nights.
"I''m still feeling sore," Bailey said. "Soaking twice today really helped me out. I felt loose. I still feel it (soreness), but I have to just put it behind me."
Stansbury was not only relieved to get the win, but he was also pleased to see his team rally in a dominate second half.
"Playing without Ray there was a lot of things stacked against us," Stansbury said. "Elgin Bailey gave us some grit. Brandon Bolen gave us some grit. It''s just one of those games you got to find ways to make more plays than that team."
MSU hoped to head into Saturday''s game against Virginia Tech with a flawless record against considerably weaker competition, but a two-game skid made Tuesday''s win valuable ahead of today''s exhibition game against Belhaven in Jackson. The Bulldogs follow with a cross-country tour that will see them play the likes of Virginia Tech, Washington State and St. Mary''s in the Bahamas, Hawaii and Las Vegas.
Today, the Bulldogs will have Sidney and Bost on the court for the first time this season, with the former set to make his MSU debut.
"It''s exciting," Benock said. "You always want to know your finished product. It''ll be far from that, but it''ll be closer than we''ve had the rest of the year. We''re looking forward to it."