Johnson leads Miss. State past LSU

Published 12:04 am Sunday, January 31, 2010

STARKVILLE (AP) — After a tough loss to Arkansas on the road Thursday night, Mississippi State was left looking to regain its footing in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division.

It found some solid ground Saturday, as Ravern Johnson scored 15 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 67-51 victory over LSU.

‘‘We had a tough loss against Arkansas, and we used that,’’ guard Phil Turner said. ‘‘I feel like sometimes tough losses do you better than a good win.’’

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Mississippi State (16-5, 4-2 SEC) took advantage of a poor shooting performance by LSU to end a two-game conference skid that dropped the Bulldogs into second place in the West.

LSU (9-12, 0-7) shot 34.6 percent (18-for-52) from the field in the game and was 5-for-15 from beyond the arc.

The Tigers turned the ball over 12 times, resulting into 17 points for the Bulldogs.

‘‘That was the focus point,’’ Jarvis Varnado said. ‘‘Play 40 minutes of defense. Our guards are in a slump right now, but shooters keep shooting and we’re just trying to find other ways to win.’’

Mississippi State opened the game on a 10-2 run and led 23-15 at halftime.

Trent Johnson tried to control Mississippi State’s oft-explosive offense the only way he knew how: Keep the ball out of their hands.

‘‘We ain’t running with anybody, and we ain’t running by anybody,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘So for us to have a chance to compete, the score’s got to be in the 50s and 60s.’’

But the Tigers struggled to find their rhythm all day and didn’t score a field goal until almost midway through the first half.

‘‘They intentionally controlled the flow of that game by holding that ball,’’ MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. ‘‘Offensively, if we’d made some more shots we could have gotten more separation, but what kept us in the game was our ability to defend.’’

The Bulldogs extended their lead to 37-21 in the opening minutes of the second half and never trailed. Mississippi State shot 42 percent from the field (21-for-50) and hit seven 3-pointers.

Jarvis Varnado scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs. It was his eleventh double-double of the season. Varnado’s four blocks give him 500 for his career — 35 shy of the NCAA career record.

Barry Stewart and Phil Turner added 12 points each.

‘‘We just have to be patient enough and disciplined enough to stay alert and grind,’’ Stansbury said.

Tasmin Mitchell scored a game-high 26 points and had 10 rebounds. Mitchell was 10-for-24 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line, but was the only LSU player with double figures.

‘‘Tasmine is going to be Tasmine,’’ Varnado said. ‘‘He’s one hell of a player. We just let him do his thing, but just kept the other guys from contributing.’’