MSU wins

Published 12:41 am Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ben Hansbrough scored 17 points and Jarvis Varnado had 16 points and 12 rebounds as Mississippi State held Lafayette College without a field goal for more than 7 1/2 minutes in the second half to beat the Leopards 77-53 on Saturday.

The Bulldogs (9-5) outscored the Leopards (8-6) 33-13 to end the game and win their fourth straight.

Jamont Gordon added 15 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and Ravern Johnson keyed the game-clinching run with six of his 11 points.

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Mississippi State used a 25-6 run that included three 3-pointers and a three-point play to take a 34-13 lead with 5:29 left in the first half. But the Leopards responded with a 12-3 run at the end of the first half to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 37-25 at halftime.

They scored the first seven points of the second half and Bilal Abdullah scored five straight points to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 44-40 with 15:31 left in the game.

Mississippi State responded by holding Lafayette College to four free throws and no baskets over the next 7:41. Michael Gruner ended the slump with a field goal to make it 55-46, but the Bulldogs then launched an 18-2 run to clinch the victory.

Abdullah led the Leopards with 21 points and Everest Schmidt added 10.

Varnado also had five blocks and his 16 points were a career high. He led a defensive effort that included 10 blocks and held the Leopards to 26.4 percent shooting.

Hansbrough made five of Mississippi State’s nine 3-pointers and finished with four assists as well.

Yet while the Bulldogs’ defensive effort was the difference in the game, their offense still needs work with the approach of Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference opener at LSU.

Mississippi State struggled to find consistency on offense playing without power forward Charles Rhodes, who missed his second straight game with an ankle sprain.

The Leopards scored 27 points off 17 turnovers and stole the ball from the Bulldogs nine times. Mississippi State hit 43.5 percent of its shots and just two-thirds of its free throws.