By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Kodi Augustus delivered another reminder Saturday afternoon of how far he has come.
On senior day, the Mississippi State forward had another double-double and made a big shot late in the game to help the Bulldogs fend off South Carolina, 60-58, in front of 7,211 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
Augustus had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and his biggest bucket came after South Carolina had nearly erased a 13-point deficit to make it a 57-56 game with just over a minute to go.
With the shot clock winding down, Augustus knocked down a fadeaway with 28 seconds to go. A technical foul on MSU coach Rick Stansbury – he ran onto the floor trying to call timeout – gave South Carolina two points at the free throw line, but freshman point guard Bruce Ellington missed two 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds.
“I’ve said this many times guys, I’m awful proud of Kodi because of how far he’s come,” Stansbury said. “He gets it now.”
Augustus, who has been in Stansbury’s doghouse each of the past two seasons for different reasons, has been steady this season. He’s got nine double-doubles now, and he reached the 500-rebound mark for his career Saturday.
“Just all the hard work (is) paying off,” Augustus said. “It’s not over, we’ve still got the SEC Tournament, but it’s all about winning. Been that way since Day 1 with me.”
MSU (17-13, 9-7 SEC) closes out the regular season with its first three-game winning streak since mid-December. It heads into next week’s SEC Tournament feeling pretty good, especially the way Ravern Johnson is shooting.
The senior guard was 7 of 14 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 21 points against the Gamecocks (14-15, 5-11). Over his past six games, Johnson has made 26 of 44 from behind the arc.
“I’d have to think hard when Ray’s taken a bad shot, too,” Stansbury said. “I can’t remember the last time.”
Over half of MSU’s 51 field goal attempts were 3-pointers, and it made 11 of 26 (42.3 percent) from there. South Carolina’s 2-3 zone kept the Bulldogs out of the post most of the game – they had only 10 points in the paint.
“That zone slowed us up some,” Stansbury said. “I didn’t think we were as sharp physically as we have been just from a fatigue standpoint. 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.”
MSU was up 53-40 when it got a little sloppy and let South Carolina back in it. The Bulldogs committed 10 of their 16 turnovers in the second half, and the Gamecocks turned those into nine points.
“They just keep coming at you,” said Stansbury.
South Carolina just couldn’t hit enough shots, though. It was 35.9 percent from the field, including 27.8 percent (5 of 18) from 3-point range. Ellington led the way with 15 points, but he was 6 of 20 shooting, 3 of 10 from downtown.
Malik Cooke scored 13, and big man Sam Muldrow was held to 10 points and seven rebounds two days after going for 24 and 12 against Tennessee. Stansbury credited Augustus with locking down on Muldrow.
“For the most part we kept him out of that soft spot from just getting those easy post-ups and going attacking you one-on-one,” Stansbury said.
Renardo Sidney had 13 points and 12 boards for State, while point guard Dee Bost had eight points and eight assists.
MSU led 29-23 at halftime. Johnson had five 3-pointers by that point.
• Game summary, Page 2B