Playing with pain: Bulldogs persevere with Bost hobbled, Johnson suspended

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

BATON ROUGE – With all Dee Bost has had to deal with this season, a strained Achilles’ tendon ranked low on the adversity scale.
Despite not practicing for two days because of the injury, Bost came up big for Mississippi State in a 58-57 win over LSU on Saturday. He wasn’t 100 percent and struggled offensively – nine points on 2-of-11 shooting – but he hit two huge free throws and saved the game in the waning seconds.
After Bost had missed a shot in the lane with under 10 seconds left, LSU had a chance for the final shot. But it never came. Bost poked the ball away from freshman point guard Andre Stringer, and the buzzer sounded as the orange orb bounded toward the scorer’s table.
“I had thoughts about sitting out and taking the game off,” Bost said, “but I missed too many the first half of the year, so I just played through it.”
Bost missed the first 14 games of the season due to academic and NCAA suspensions. Coach Rick Stansbury wasn’t sure if Bost, who suffered his injury Wednesday against Alabama and had to wear a protective boot Thursday and Friday, would even play Saturday.
During that morning’s shootaround, Bost said he’d be good to go.
“I didn’t want to look and see if he couldn’t go,” Stansbury said.
MSU (12-10, 4-4 SEC) won without senior Ravern Johnson, who was suspended for his outburst on Twitter following the loss to Alabama. Stansbury banned his players from Twitter after that.
The Bulldogs managed to put that aside to hand LSU (10-13, 2-6) its sixth loss in a row. The Tigers tend to play low-scoring games, but MSU overcame that by winning battles inside and getting to the free throw line.
Renardo Sidney had 16 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double. MSU made 11 of 17 free throws, and a pair of makes by Bost with 1:59 to go gave State the lead for good and proved to be the final points of the game.
LSU didn’t even get off a shot over the final 2:09, committing three turnovers during that span, including a steal by Bost.
LSU shot 37.3 percent from the field and 25 percent (6 of 24) from 3-point range. The Tigers missed 16 consecutive 3-point shots after starting 4 of 6.
“I think we did a pretty good job of making decisions quickly earlier in the game, but the last few possessions we didn’t make them well,” said Stringer, who led LSU with 15 points and four assists.
Aaron Dotson added 10 points.
With Johnson out, MSU had to shuffle its lineup, moving Riley Benock to Johnson’s three-guard spot and inserting freshman Jalen Steele at shooting guard. It worked out pretty well, with Steele and some reserves making key contributions.
Benock knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The game was tight throughout, featuring 15 ties and 12 lead changes. MSU never led by more than three points.
“Everybody just battled,” Benock said, “and that’s what we need, whether it’s offensively, defensively, rebounding, as long as you’re playing hard, good things will happen.”
MSU shot 37.7 percent overall, 39.1 percent from behind the arc (9 of 23). Kodi Augustus, a native of Baton Rouge, had 10 points and four rebounds, and he had a strip of Malcolm White to force a turnover with 43 seconds to go.
MSU, out-rebounded badly by Georgia and Alabama this season – minus-40 in those two games combined – earned a virtual draw in that department Saturday: 39-38 LSU. Each team had eight offensive boards.
This is the kind of win MSU hopes to build on. That might sound like a familiar theme, but in a season filled with turmoil, it’s one the Bulldogs need to keep coming back to.
They showed some resiliency after what happened with the Alabama loss and Johnson’s suspension.
“It’s been crazy,” Steele said. “Our team has been through a lot this year, a whole lot. For us to come down to LSU and get a win, it’s going to help us out and bring us closer together.”
n Game summary, Page 2B

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