Bulldogs fend off South Carolina

STARKVILLE, Miss., - Like the majority of home games this year, Mississippi State's ending of Saturday's game with South Carolina presented no easy exits for the Bulldogs. Yet after losing three games this year at the buzzer inside Humphrey Coliseum, the Bulldogs got a lucky bounce against the Gamecocks and held on for a 60-58 victory.
After South Carolina's Ramon Galloway last-gasp attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer, MSU ended the regular-season on a three-game winning streak and enter next Friday's SEC Tournament opener at 17-13 overall and 9-7 in the league.
The Gamecocks, meanwhile, fell to 14-15 overall and 5-1 in the SEC.
"We had to play against a zone today for basically 40 minutes," said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. "And we haven't seen a lot of zone lately and that zone slowed us up some. Then I didn't think we were as sharp physically and from a fatigue standpoint. We controlled the game for 15 minutes in the second half and then we just have those three late turnovers that allowed them to get back in it.
"But we found ways to make plays. We stepped to the free throw line and made the free throws when we had to make them. Sometimes you just have to find ways to win and that is what we did here today."
MSU held a 53-40 lead with 5:32 left in the game before South Carolina stormed back on reeled off 14-2 run and cut State's lead to 55-54 with 1:59 left.
A pair of Renardo Sidney free throws pushed State's lead to 57-54 only to see the Gamecocks cut the margin to one again with 1:04 seconds left in regulation.
Playing his final home game at Humphrey Coliseum, MSU's Kodi Augustus then hit his biggest shot of the day, a turnaround jumper to put MSU up 59-56 with 28 ticks left.
"I knew the shot clock was going down," said Augustus. "Riley (Benock) was dribbling at me and I knew I was gonna make that move and it went in.
"It was good to get a win in that last home game and it's just the hard work paying off."
But that's when things started to go haywire for the Bulldogs. Attempting to call a timeout, Stansbury ran out on the court but was not seen by the officials. Stansbury did draw a technical foul and South Carolina's Malik Cooke sank both technical free shots with 25 seconds left, cutting State's lead to 59-58.
"Ya'll know what I was doing," said Stansbury of the technical. "But I really don't want to comment on it but I take responsibility for it."
After a Dee Bost free throw pushed MSU's margin to 60-58, the Gamecocks' final shot of the day misfired and the Bulldogs won their fifth straight over South Carolina.
Ravern Johnson continued his hot shooting of late and led MSU with 21 points, including tying a season-best mark with seven treys. In fact, over his last six games Johnson is 28-of-44 beyond the arc.
Naturally, it was a fitting ending to Johnson's home career at MSU.
"I've just been feeling it the last couple of games," said Johnson. "I've been getting a lot of shots up and been doing a lot of different things in practice with more repitition. Then I am more game ready and I've been knocking them down."
Johnson missed his first trey attempt of the game, but then made five of his next seven attempts in the first half to help MSU gain a 29-23 halftime advantage.
"It was but once I got the first (shot) out of my system I was fine after that," said Johnson. "Then I calmed down after that and I found a good rhythm."
Augustus also produced a solid showing in his game regular-season outing at Humphrey Coliseum, posting his ninth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 boards. Augustus also played well, defensively, against South Carolina's Sam Muldrow, who was held to just 10 field-goal attempts and 10 points.
"He just came off a 25-point and 12-rebound game and was one of those big keys to keep him from scoring," said Stansbury of Muldrow. "And Kodi did a good job on him. And our guys found a way to outrebound a good rebounding team that leads the league in offensive rebounds."
"Kodi is really playing hard right now," said Stansbury. "Give him a lot of credit for keeping Muldrow from posting up. I am awfully proud of him ans how far he's come and you guys have seen him become a better person and a better player. He will walk out of here in (May) with his degree and no longer will I be worried about him."
MSU's Sidney also collected a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 12 boards while Bost had eight points and eight assists. MSU shot just 37 percent from the floor but produced a 73 percent showing (11-of-15) from the charity stripe and 42.6 percent (11-of-26) beyond the arc.
However, South Carolina was also just 37 percent from the floor and just 27 percent beyond the arc. MSU also out-rebounded the Gamecocks 41-35 but committed 16 turnovers to South Carolina's eight turnovers.