Ravern Johnson scored 23 points as Mississippi State held off Nicholls State for a 67-58 victory on Monday night.
Johnson, who came in averaging 23.9 points per game, scored 18 in the first half. Brian Bryant added a career-high 22 points as Mississippi State (6-2) shot 51.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.
While Johnson's scoring has been a constant this season, Bryant's output was a first. The junior made 7 of 9 shots from the field, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. He also added seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Nicholls State (4-4) had already upset one Southeastern Conference team this season, beating LSU 62-53 on Nov. 16.
The Colonels looked like they might be in contention for another improbable win early, briefly taking a 27-26 lead with 2:47 remaining in the first half after an 8-0 run.
But MSU roared back with 10 unanswered points to take a 36-27 at halftime and extended its lead to 13 points midway through the second half. Nicholls State had one more run, closing within 56-49 late in the second half before the Bulldogs scored the next five points to put the game away.
Anatoly Bose scored 17 points to lead four Colonels in double figures. Ben Martin scored 12 points and Fred Hunter added 11 points and nine rebounds. MSU outrebounded Nicholls State 33-24.
It was MSU's third game in the midst of a brutal stretch of five games in five days.
The odd scheduling quirk is by design. Point guard Dee Bost — the team's leading scorer last season — is serving a nine-game suspension after failing to withdraw from the NBA draft last spring before the NCAA's deadline. But Bost was also academically ineligible for the first semester, so his nine-game suspension couldn't begin until finals were finished last week.
That means the Bulldogs are squeezing in as many games as possible over the next few weeks before Southeastern Conference play begins on Jan. 8 — which marks Bost's return.
Forward Renardo Sidney is also serving a nine-game NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits in high school. He becomes eligible on Saturday.