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Georgia falls to Mississippi State, remains winless in SEC
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ATHENS — Georgia’s secret weapon surprised Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury.

Luckily, Stansbury could counter with Jarvis Varnado, who is anything but a secret.

Varnado, the nation’s leader in blocked shots, had 14 points and game-high totals of eight rebounds, four blocks and four steals and Mississippi State overcame Ricky McPhee’s 3-point barrage to beat Georgia 67-61 on Saturday night.

Mississippi State led by 19 at 30-11 midway through the first half, but McPhee, a walk-on, made three 3-pointers in the first nine minutes of the second half to cut the lead to 47-43.

McPhee, a 6-foot-1 transfer walk-on from Gardner-Webb, added another 3 with 7:11 remaining to cut State’s lead to 52-50.

Mississippi State scored the next eight points.

Even after the game, Stansbury wasn’t sure about the mystery player making all the 3s for Georgia.

"One of the big reasons they got back in the game ... was that little McPherson kid or McGee, a kid who hadn’t played," said Stansbury, referring to McPhee.

"He hadn’t played," Stansbury insisted. "I don’t think he had one minute in SEC play. Check the stats."

Stansbury was almost right. McPhee had played only a combined six minutes in two conference games before logging 24 minutes and making 5 of 7 3s, including four in the second half, to score a career-high 15 points.

"He came off the bench and made five 3s and those 3s in the second half got them back going and gave them some energy," Stansbury said. "It got contagious."

Georgia freshman Dustin Ware had 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 19.7 seconds left cut Mississippi State’s lead to 64-61. Jeremy Price had 10 points.

Phil Turner, who had 13 points, made four free throws in the final minute.

Ravern Johnson led Mississippi State (14-6 overall, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) with 21 points, all in the first half.

"They played zone (defense) and I’m a shooter," Johnson explained. "When they play zone, you’ve got to knock down shots."

Georgia (9-10, 0-4) has lost six straight, but coach Dennis Felton found some cause for optimism from his team’s second-half play. Georgia had 16 turnovers in the first half and only six in the final 20 minutes.

"I was pleased to be at least where we were at halftime after turning the thing over 16 times and letting Johnson get 21," Felton said.

Felton said Ware, who shares point-guard duties with Zac Swansey, helped Georgia set a different pace in the second half.

"I think Dustin did a really good job of facilitating a lot of that by just pushing it and pushing it and pushing it," Felton said. "Obviously we got a terrific lift from Ricky scoring the ball."

Mississippi State’s answer was Varnado.

"Ravern was so hot in the first half, we weren’t real conscious of getting the ball inside," Stansbury said. "When you get a lead and you’re on the road, you better get the ball inside some, because that 3-point shot, you can’t live on that on every possession.

"I thought we had a great balance. I thought we got the ball to Jarvis. Jarvis going to work in the second half was a big difference in the game."

Varnado, who had eight rebounds and four steals, said he was passing out to Johnson in the first half when Georgia’s defense collapsed on him near the basket. Varnado had more chances when Georgia changed its defense.

"One thing about this team is you don’t know who’s going to step up on any given night," Varnado said.

Each of Varnado’s four blocks came in the second half. He scored after his first block on Albert Jackson and scored eight of his team’s first 11 points in the second half.

Georgia, last in the SEC in scoring (66 points per game) and field-goal percentage (42.3), continued to struggle offensively. The host Bulldogs were held to 24 points in the first half and then didn’t score in the first four minutes of the second half.

Johnson, averaging 12 points per game, almost matched Georgia’s first-half scoring while making five of his first six 3-pointers. He didn’t attempt another 3-pointer in the game.

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