HONOLULU, HI - Mississippi State bounced back quite nicely from its setback to Washington State with a convincing 69-52 win against San Diego on Thursday in the second round of the Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Bulldogs, who improved to 8-4 and now play Hawaii/Utah on Christmas Day at 3:30 p.m. CT in a non-televised affair, had three players score in double digits, led by Renardo Sidney's 19 point effort. Ravern Johnson, who had totaled just 15 points combined in the previous two games, poured in 18, while Kodi Augustus added 13 to go along with his 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the year.
MSU, which snapped its two-game losing skid, also won the battle of the boards, 45-40, while committing just 13 turnovers, eight fewer than in the loss to the Cougars on Wednesday.
"I thought we played with a lot of energy and got the ball where we needed," 13th-year Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "We were very aggressive with the zone. We missed a lot of wide-open shots, good shots, but our play inside made a difference."
The Bulldogs bolted out to a 13-4 lead less than 5 minutes into the game on two free throws by Sidney, who scored 11 of his points in the first half. Midway through the frame, the Toreros closed the gap to 18-12 on a 3-pointer by Jordan Mackie, but that would be as close as they would get.
MSU then orchestrated a 7-0 run and went up 25-12 on a pull-up jumper by Sidney. State led by as many as 16 at 29-13 on two free throws by Johnson. At the break, MSU enjoyed a 37-24 advantage.
In the second half, MSU attacked the paint early and often. Coming out of the locker room, the Bulldogs scored the first five points on a shot inside by Augustus and another by Sidney, who was also fouled on the play, for a 42-24 lead.
The advantage swelled to as many as 22 points on a jumper by Augustus in the paint at the 5:31 mark.
"Kodi played extremely well," Stansbury said. "He's done that both games here. He was very active on both ends. Sid was very productive for us. Very efficient."
It was just the second game in the Maroon & White for Sidney, who was suspended for the Washington State contest due to conduct detrimental to the team.
"The key was scoring inside," the sophomore said. "I've got to give my teammates a lot of credit. They did a great job of getting me the ball in the paint. They are the ones that make it happen."
The Bulldogs hit 24 of their 62 shots and were just 5 of 23 from long range. Johnson was 7-of-18 shooting, but 0 for 6 beyond the arc. It was the first time this season he didn't make a trey, and he entered the game leading the nation in 3-pointers made per outing.
The last time the senior from Lyon, Miss., failed to make a 3-pointer was last March in the opening round of the NIT against Jackson State when he missed all five of his attempts. He's now 1 of 12 in his last two games.
"I'm a shooter, and sometimes you go through games like these," he said. "I just have to keep shooting. I'll get my touch back. Fortunately, other guys stepped up and made big shots."