Bulldogs continue win streak at San Diego

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado scored 23 points and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds as the Bulldogs defeated the University of San Diego 77-68 in a men's college basketball game played Thursday night at USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion.
Varnado gathered 17 rebounds for the third time in his career - matching his output earlier this year in a road win at Houston and last year in a home win over LSU. For the Bulldog senior, it was his seventh double double of the season and 22nd of his standout career. The 23 point night - highlighted by a 7-of-7 night at the free throw line - marked a new season-high.
M-State closes out 2009 with its ninth straight victory. For the Bulldogs, it is their longest win streak since the 2003-04 squad won its first 13 games to start the season. The victory also made amends for a season ago when the Toreros pulled off a 64-61 overtime shocker inside the Humphrey Coliseum.
"We beat a good basketball team," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "They had everybody healthy and were up for this game. For the most part, we defended them pretty well in most areas. We stepped up to the free throw line and made free throws. We did the things you have to do to win on the road."
MSU fell behind early as the Bulldogs missed six of their first seven shots from the field. Despite the early struggles the deficit was never more than five points. Trailing 20-16, the Bulldogs finally found a rhythm, ripping off a 10-0 run.
A Wendell Lewis dunk capped that run, placing the Bulldogs ahead 26-20. MSU would not trail for the remainder of the contest. Thanks to the final of three first-half 3-point baskets from Kodi Augustus and eight first-half rebounds from Varnado, the Bulldogs were able to stretch the lead.
Varnado rammed a dunk home as the half expired, with the Bulldogs sprinting out to a 38-30 halftime advantage.
In the game's final half, the lead grew to double digits for the first time on an Augustus dunk with 15:44 remaining. However, the hot shooting of USD's Brandon Johnson kept the Toreros in the contest.
A pair of free throws by Johnson cut the MSU lead to 45-39. However, Phil Turner answered on the other end with a 3-point basket. Minutes later, an old-fashioned 3-point play by Augustus pushed the Bulldogs to a 57-46 advantage with less than nine minutes left in the contest.
The lead would grow to 13 before USD - again fueled by Johnson and 3-point shooting by Chris Lewis - made its final push. However, MSU hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final three minutes to close out the win.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 26 of 48 shots from the field (54.2 percent), 6 of 14 shots from 3-point range (42.9 percent) and 19 of 26 shots from the foul line (73.1 percent). The Toreros hit 22 of 57 shots from the field (38.6 percent), 6 of 17 shots from 3-point range (35.3 percent) and 18 of 25 shots from the foul line (72.0 percent).
Augustus finished with 17 points for the Bulldogs, while Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson each added 10 points. For USD, Johnson finished with a career-high 31 points, including an 8-of-16 night from the field and 12-of-15 night from the line. Roberto Mafra added 14 points for the Toreros.
The Bulldogs held a 35-29 rebounding advantage. MSU had 10 assists and 17 turnovers, while USD had nine assists and 12 turnovers.
MSU will ring in the New Year with its final non-conference matchup of the season. The Bulldogs play Western Kentucky at 8 p.m. CT Monday in Bowling Green, Ky. That contest will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast. MSU opens Southeastern Conference play on January 9th at in-state rival Ole Miss.