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Rhodes' 26 points leads Mississippi State past Mississippi

Jan 27, 2008 - 3:59 AM STARKVILLE, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Charles Rhodes helped Mississippi State remain perfect in conference play.

Rhodes scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half and grabbed six rebounds as the Bulldogs toppled No. 15 Mississippi, 88-68, in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday.

Jamont Gordon had 13 points and six assists and Barry Stewart and Jarvis Varnado each scored 12 for Mississippi State (14-5, 5-0 SEC West), which has won nine straight and remains the only unbeaten team in league play.

"We are 5-0, but it is a long season," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "The only thing that matters is the next game. It is a 16-game schedule, and right now, it's one game at a time. At the end of the season, I can be able to reflect on things a lot easier."

The Bulldogs, who have defeated the Rebels 11 of the past 13 times, are also 10-0 vs. their intrastate rival at home under Stansbury.

"Charles had a great scoring night and Gordon had an incredible floor game with six assists and one turnover," Stansbury said. "I also thought our bench was huge. It was a great team effort."

Leading 38-31 at the break, Rhodes and Mississippi State gradually widened their advantage after intermission.

Rhodes, who connected on 12-of-14 from the floor, nailed two straight jumpers to give the Bulldogs their first double-digit lead at 44-34 less than three minutes after the break.

"In the second half, it was obvious that Charles was feeling it and we made an effort to get him the basketball more," Stansbury said. "We've been juggling to find a consistent leading scorer lately because of injuries - but now that Charles is back and stronger, we can hopefully find more consistency offensively."

After Trevor Gaskins made a shot from the arc to cut Mississippi's deficit to 49-42 with 14:46 left, Mississippi State went on a 6-0 spurt mostly due to the spectacular Gordon.

The 6-4, 230-pound Gordon, who is the reigning SEC player of the week, had a three-point play to give the Bulldogs a 53-42 cushion with 13:51 to play. The junior point guard then went coast-to-coast for a dunk in traffic to push the advantage to 13 points.

Gordon later fed Rhodes and freshman Elgin Bailey for fastbreak layups to help Mississippi State maintain a 13-point lead with 11:34 left.

"I think if (Gordon and Rhodes) are not the best one-two punch in the SEC, we will face the other on Wednesday in Shan Foster and A.J. Ogilvy of Vanderbilt," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. "I think Gordon and Rhodes were both on top of their games tonight."

After a pair of foul shots by Dwayne Curtis cut Ole Miss' deficit to 59-48 just 26 seconds later, Mississippi State went on a 10-4 burst capped by a 3-pointer by freshman sharpshooter Riley Benock to put the game away. Benock, who started the run with a shot from the arc, scored all of his season-high 12 points on 3-pointers.

"Riley did what we need him to do tonight and it was his role," Stansbury said. "He came in and knocked down shots, played smart and did not make mistakes. His bench play was huge tonight."

Rhodes finished his night when Gordon drove the lane with just under three minutes left and threw an over the shoulder pass to the 6-8, 240-pound senior, who dunked to make it, 83-62, with 2:59 remaining.

"Rhodes told us what he was going to do and he did it," Kennedy said. "Give him credit. He made a lot of tough shots. He is a good player, and that's what you want. You want your guys to step up and make big plays - and he did."

Mississippi State shot 57 percent (34-of-60) while holding Mississippi to 37 percent (28-of-76).

Dwayne Curtis had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season and Eniel Polynice had 14 and seven for the Rebels (15-3, 2-3), who have dropped two straight and three of five after beginning the season 13-0.

Ole Miss standout freshman point guard Chris Warren scored 15 points, but shot just 5-of-20 from the field, including 2-of-10 from the arc.

"There is no question that Chris Warren is a terrific player, but Jamont is a terrific player too," Stansbury said. "They are too completely different types of players. Warren is small and quick, and Jamont is powerful and strong both physically and mentally. Jamont kept Warren from ever really getting into a flow, which was a key to the game."