By MATTHEW STEVENS
Every member of the Mississippi State mens basketball team knows they can’t handle many more games like the first four games of this season.
While his Bulldogs have found ways to leave Humphrey Coliseum with a victory, senior guard Riley Benock knows his team, even without stars Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney, can't afford to risk an upset like they have been in the opening month of the schedule.
“That is something we don’t want to get used to doing,” Benock said.
Four wins by less than double digits against mid-major programs have provided early scares for MSU fans and the Bulldogs hope to confidently put away Florida Atlantic (3-4) when they roll into Starkville tonight for a 7 p.m. tip.
For the first time since the 1942-43 season, State has opened a season with four games decided by 10 points or less. An MSU win tonight would mark the fifth time under Stansbury that State has started a perfect 5-0.
“We’ve got no margin for error,” Stansbury said. “I’ll take the positives from we fought back to get back in it and there’s a lot of times we could’ve quit in this game tonight.”
In order to make this game the blowout variety they hope for, Bulldogs head coach Rick Stansbury knows his team can’t come out of the tunnel as flat offensively like they did Friday in a overtime win against Troy.
MSU was down 63-52 with 9:27 left in the game before State answered with five long range shots to produce a 15-3 rally to eventually take its first second-half lead late in the game.
“Well, number one, Florida Atlantic is a good team,” Stansbury said. “They played at Florida last week and had chances to win. Number two, we need to come out more focused than we did the last time, mentally and physically.”
The Owls, who are on a three-game losing skid to American, Florida and George Mason, are led in scoring by Florida guard duo Greg Gantt and Dennis Mavin at 16.0 and 11.4 points respectively.
State continues to be paced by senior guard Ravern Johnson, who scored a career-best 33 points and drained seven 3-pointers Friday night, as the Lyon native leads the league and is fifth nationally with his 27.3 scoring clip.
“Right now, I realize most of the scoring load is put on me,” Johnson said. “That is something I am glad to accept. We just have to keep getting better at the little things, and keep improving as a team.”
Tickets are available and can be purchased at the Humphrey Coliseum window at the special price of only $5.