By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State was short-handed and beaten up, but it found the kind of groove it’s often lacked and kept itself firmly planted in second place in the SEC Western Division.
Dee Bost, again playing with a strained Achilles’ tendon, scored 18 points as the Bulldogs earned a 67-56 win on Wednesday in front of the 3,121 hardy souls who braved the snowy conditions. It was the 11th consecutive loss at Humphrey Coliseum for Arkansas.
MSU (13-10, 5-4 SEC) was again without suspended guard Ravern Johnson, and starting guard Riley Benock was limited by a bruised shoulder. Despite having to use an 8-man rotation, the Bulldogs got stronger as the game went on, taking a five-point halftime lead and opening it up to 16 points midway through the second half.
“We came out kind of starting slow but then picked it up and had to match their intensity,” Bost said. “Give credit to the bench, they came off and gave us a big boost. Everybody played well.”
It was certainly one of MSU’s more well-rounded showings. All eight players scored, with Renardo Sidney getting 12 to go with 10 rebounds, recording his second career – and second straight – double-double.
Brian Bryant had nine points, while Kodi Augustus and Wendell Lewis had eight apiece in the post.
Arkansas (14-9, 4-6) tried to make a push, drawing within seven points with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left, but MSU got some defensive stops and made free throws.
The Razorbacks’ last lead came at 36-35 on a Rotnei Clarke 3-pointer. MSU answered with a nice sequence from Lewis, who made a layup, got a steal to lead to a Bost layup, and then threw down a dunk for a 41-36 lead.
State wound up going on 23-6 run, a stretch during which Bost scored 10 points and Bryant seven.
“We were playing great, defensively, running in transition and stuff,” Benock said. “If we’re playing like that, we can beat a lot of teams.”
Arkansas, which has now lost three in a row, couldn’t get much going inside. Marshawn Powell was held to four points, and Delvon Johnson had just six. They shot a combined 3 of 13 from the floor.
Sidney and Augustus both kept their positions and didn’t give up many easy looks to those two.
“I thought our kids defensively, we did about as good a job as you could do on Powell and Johnson,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “Those are the two we were concerned about.”
Only one Arkansas player scored in double digits, with guard Marcus Britt notching 10 points. The Hogs shot 33.3 percent overall and 35 percent from 3-point range.
MSU lost the turnover battle, 21-13, and Arkansas scored 25 points off the miscues. But State made up for it on the boards with a 41-28 rebounding margin, its largest this season, and it made 16 of 18 free throws.
MSU shot 46.8 percent from the floor, including 43.8 percent from the 3-point line (7 of 16). Augustus had a team-high nine rebounds – and eight turnovers.
MSU next travels to Auburn for a Saturday showdown at 6 p.m.