Varnado leads Miss. St. to 74-66 win over Alabama

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Jarvis Varnado broke the NCAA's career record for blocks and had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Mississippi State to a 20-win season with a 74-66 victory over Alabama on Wednesday night.

Varnado was two shy of his third triple-double with eight blocks for the Bulldogs (20-8, 8-5), who took a one-game lead in the Southeastern Conference's Western Division with three games left. They also sent the Crimson Tide (14-13, 4-9) to its sixth straight road loss.

Dee Bost had 22 points, including consecutive 3-pointers late, to help Mississippi State win its fourth game in five contests.

Varnado broke Wojciech Mydra's record of 535 career blocks, which the Louisiana-Monroe center set from 1998-2002. He now has 142 this season and 536 in his career.

With the crowd on its feet chanting Varnado's nickname, "Swat," much of the way, he had six second-half blocks and used his intimidating presence to help the Bulldogs pull away.

The 6-foot-9 center from Brownsville, Tenn., had blocks on consecutive Alabama possessions midway through the second half to turn the momentum. The second, on JaMychal Green, was pulled in by Ravern Johnson, who drove the length of the court and dunked to push the lead to 47-39 with 12:18 left.

That was part of a 13-6 run that Varnado dominated. He had a steal to set up Mississippi State's next basket and picked up a loose ball for a dunk to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead, 56-45 with 9:17 left. He stopped a quick run with another dunk, but Mississippi State couldn't put Alabama away.

The Crimson rallied with a 10-2 run to make it 61-59 with 3:50 left. That's when Bost stepped up with 3-pointers at 3:11 and 2:25, then Ravern Johnson hit another to make it 70-61 with 1:28 left.

That decisive Mississippi State run included a 3-pointer by Barry Stewart, who hit two to break Darryl Wilson's school record of 258.

Varnado and Stewart, co-captains who share the Mississippi State record for games played, were honored after the game with much of the crowd staying behind and chanting. Varnado's parents were on the court for the celebration.

There was plenty to celebrate. The reed-thin Varnado, playing without a scholarship in his final year, is a fan favorite. Plus, the win greatly improved Mississippi State's chances of an NCAA bid, though the Bulldogs play games at South Carolina and Auburn before finishing off with No. 19 Tennessee in Starkville.

The loss continues a slide for Alabama, which has lost four of five. Mikhail Torrance led the Tide with 23 points, but scored just eight in the second half. Green finished with 12 points, but was blocked three times by Varnado in the second half.