Bulldogs secure second seed

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Behind a 25-point night from Ravern Johnson and 23-point night from Kodi Augustus, the Mississippi State men's basketball team posted an impressive 88-78 win over Arkansas in Southeastern Conference action Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.
With the victory, the Bulldogs secured second place in the Western Division standings. This means, MSU will receive a first-round bye when the SEC Tournament tips off next week in Atlanta, Ga. The Bulldogs will open play at 9 p.m. next Friday in the Georgia Dome.
MSU made it back-to-back league road wins Wednesday night, while improving to 16-13 overall and 8-7 in conference play. Arkansas fell to 18-11 and 7-8. The Bulldogs completed their fourth-ever season sweep of the Razorbacks and have now won six of the past seven meetings. MSU also won for the second time in three seasons here, while scoring the most points by a Bulldog team in this building.
"Arkansas has been really good at home," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "Tonight, we played with another level of confidence. Kodi was a warrior tonight, offensively and defensively. As a team on the road, you have to make more free throws than the other team attempts and we did that.
"It was a great team effort. We really couldn't have had a better defensive effort down the stretch. This team has stayed together, kept fighting and found a way tonight to do some things that we haven't been able to do consistently this year."
The Bulldogs scored 53 points in the second half, including a stretch where the Maroon and White scored on 10 consecutive possessions. MSU also made one turnover during the final 20 minutes of play. Those positive statistics helped the Bulldogs overcome a 39-35 halftime deficit.
The Razorbacks opened the second half with a 6-2 run to open up a 45-37 advantage. The Bulldogs tied the contest by scoring the game's next eight points, including back-to-back 3-point baskets by Augustus and Johnson.
Arkansas quickly regained the momentum, opening a 51-45 advantage with 14:38 left. Again, the Bulldogs had an answer. A driving layup by Johnson tied the game at 53. The teams would tie again at 58 and 60.
The Bulldogs then caught fire. Back-to-back 3-point baskets by Dee Bost and Brian Bryant put the Maroon and White ahead for good. Those treys would spark a game-changing 15-3 run. A pair of Bost free throws ran the MSU advantage to 73-63 with 4:06 left.
The Razorbacks went more than six minutes with only one field goal as the momentum shifted squarely to the Maroon and White. After the 15-3 run, the Razorbacks got no closer than seven points on three different occasions.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 29 of 59 shots from the field (49.2 percent), 9 of 22 shots from 3-point range (40.9 percent) and 21 of 26 shots from the foul line (80.8 percent). The Razorbacks hit 26 of 57 shots from the field (45.6 percent), 11 of 22 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 15 of 20 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent).
The Bulldogs held a 33-30 rebounding advantage. MSU had 15 assists and eight turnovers, while the Razorbacks had 14 assists and 12 turnovers.
Johnson finished with his best scoring night in a conference game. His 25 points came on 9-of-14 shooting from the field, with five 3-point baskets. Augustus had an 8-for-8 night at the foul line on the way to his 23 points. Augustus also had six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block.
Renardo Sidney added 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Bryant proved a big spark off the bench, scoring eight points, dishing out six assists and making no turnovers in 24 minutes of action.
Arkansas received 24 points from Rotnei Clarke, 14 points from Marshawn Powell, 11 points from Delvon Johnson and 10 points from Marcus Britt. Powell posted a double-double as he also had a game-high 13 rebounds, including 10 on the defensive end.
The Bulldogs close the regular season with a 1 p.m. start against South Carolina Saturday in the Humphrey Coliseum. ESPN2 will have the national telecast. The MSU seniors will be honored in pregame ceremonies prior to that contest.