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Sir Swat rules land

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- History couldn''t be made on the road. 

 

It just wouldn''t have been right for Humphrey Coliseum to miss out on an NCAA record being broken.  

 

Mississippi State forward Jarvis Varnado needed eight blocked shots Wednesday to set a NCAA record, and he registered that total to pass former Louisiana-Monroe center Wojciech Myrda with an all-time mark of 536.  

 

Oh yeah. MSU defeated Alabama 74-66 for an important Southeastern Conference victory. 

 

Varnado''s clincher came with less than five minutes remaining in the second half, when he met Mikhail Torrance''s floater at its peak to send the crowd of 8,477 into a frenzy.  

 

Varnado (17 points, 10 rebounds) finished two blocks shy of a triple-double. 

 

MSU coach Rick Stansbury shed light on just how remarkable Varnado''s achievement is by describing a 6-foot-9, 180-pound freshman "who would foul out seven minutes into the game." 

 

Varnado has become a beast since then, and with 4 minutes, 28 seconds left in the game he cemented his name in college basketball history. 

 

He had to use every inch of his vertical leap and wingspan to get it. 

 

"I saw (Mikhail) Torrance coming in the hole and I knew he was going to try and get off that floater, and I got it," Varnado said. 

 

After rejecting a pair of shots early in the first half, MSU guard Ravern Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer and leaner to take a 39-35 lead. From there, Varnado said he was in the zone. 

 

"Shooters have hot spells, and I just got on a hot streak," Varnado said. "I just kept telling myself, ''do it some more, do it some more,'' and I just went and got them." 

 

Varnado and his teammates left the court with T-shirts that read "King of Swat." Breaking the record at home made the celebration even sweeter, and Varnado was happy to get the job done at home instead of Saturday at South Carolina.  

 

"For four years I''ve been here, the fans and people around town have been so great to me," Varnado said. "It was a blessing to do it here." 

 

Earlier in the day, Varnado was named one of 30 finalists for the Naismith Trophy, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced. The award is given annually to the top men''s college basketball player and will be presented at the Final Four in Indianapolis, Ind. 

 

In all the hysteria of college basketball history being re-written was Barry Stewart''s MSU career-record 259th 3-pointer. He passed Daryl Wilson for the school''s all-time record, and his fadeaway 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 54-43 lead with 10 minutes left in the second half. Stewart hit 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. 

 

"It felt good when it finally went down," Stewart said. "It was a big point for us in the game and it got the crowd into it."  

 

With a pair of Bulldogs reaching career milestones, there was still a hotly contested game that saw the Crimson Tide creep to 61-59 with under five minutes to go.  

 

MSU led by as many as eight in the second half before Dee Bost knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and Johnson had a deep 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 70-61 lead. 

 

After going back and forth in the first half and dealing with Torrance''s hot shooting in the first half, the Bulldogs (20-8, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) took a 31-29 halftime lead.  

 

The Bulldogs had sole possession of first place on the line following Arkansas'' loss at LSU, and Stansbury said the attention and emotion surrounding Varnado''s record chase affected the game.  

 

"I told those guys in the huddle, ''We can celebrate, hug, and kiss each other after we get this win,'' " Stansbury said. "The crowd, every time (Varnado) would go up -- it was becoming part of that game." 

 

Alabama''s Jamychal Green picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and was forced to sit the entire first half. Torrance finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. He scored 12 of his team''s first 14 points.  

 

But as the energy lifted the Bulldogs, Alabama coach Anthony Grant admitted the ebb and flow of Varnado''s block spurt turned the tables for the Tide (14-13, 4-9), though he thought his team responded well. 

 

"He was extremely aggressive and physical tonight," Grant said. "There was a lot of energy, emotion in the building. There were a lot of opportunities tonight where our guys could have got caught up in the emotion of what was going on in between the lines." 

 

The loss marked the Tide''s sixth loss in their past seven games. Two of those losses have been by two points, and within five with less than three minutes to go, Grant said Bost''s and Johnson''s 3-pointers were "daggers" to his team''s rally attempt. 

 

"The shot clock''s winding down and who knows if that shot doesn''t fall," Grant said of Bost''s trey. "Then Johnson hits a deep one in the corner. Same situation where we had them in the press and had them on their heels a bit."  

 

Bost led the Bulldogs with 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. He added three steals and three assists.  

 

Johnson came off the bench for the second straight game and finished with 12 points.  

 

MSU will look to extend its SEC West lead Saturday at South Carolina.  

 

Alabama returns to the court Saturday when it plays host to the University of Mississippi. 

 

NOTE: MSU dedicated press row at Humphrey Coliseum to former Starkville Daily News sports editor Don Foster, who passed away last year. An MSU alum, Foster covered MSU athletics for more than 30 years. MSU named press row "Don Foster Press Row" and presented a plaque to Foster''s son, Charles Allen, who was joined by his wife, Kristy, daughter, Madison, and son, T.J. Said Charles Allen, "It''s special what Mississippi State has done for my dad. I have a lot of memories here, and it makes me think about all the fun I had with my dad going to Mississippi State games. It was a really special night."

 

 

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