By Brad Locke and Parrish Alford
OXFORD – With its two most experienced players watching from the bench, Mississippi State was as vulnerable as it could possibly be.
With Ole Miss leading 52-50, center Jarvis Varnado sat with his fourth foul, joining guard Barry Stewart, who’d picked up his fourth moments earlier. By the time both were back in, MSU found itself leading 71-69 with 4 minutes, 46 seconds left in the game.
MSU’s ability to hold serve was crucial in the 82-80 win.
State coach Rick Stansbury said he didn’t have time to worry about having so much youth on the court.
“You’ve got to go with what you’ve got,” he said.
What MSU got, after falling behind 63-57, were key buckets from reserves Kodi Augustus and Romero Osby. After Stewart checked back in, freshman point guard Dee Bost’s 3-point play tied it 65-65, and Stewart’s 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 68-65 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
State’s bench scored 27 points. Augustus had 13, and lone senior Brian Johnson had four with three rebounds.
n David Huertas, the fourth-leading scorer in the SEC at 18.5 points a game, had 10 points in the first half and helped Ole Miss to a 42-all tie at the break.
But Huertas, who missed Wednesday’s 98-91 overtime win at Arkansas with a bruised foot, could play for only three minutes in the second half.
“He was limping in the first half, I thought,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “He iced it at halftime to try and get the swelling down but just was not able to go in the second half. I was proud he gave it a try.”
Huertas was 3-for-9 from the floor, 2-for-6 from 3-point range.
Huertas was 3-for-9 from the arc and had 16 points in the Rebels’ win in Starkville.
Running on fumes
n Kennedy says he believes the Rebels still have to win games to reach the NIT.
If the Rebels make the field it will be their third trip under Kennedy and his fourth in a row, dating back to his season as interim coach at Cincinnati in 2006.
As Ole Miss heads to the SEC tournament, Terrico White called the team “battered and tired.”
With walk-on seniors Ryan Brown and Patrick Spach starting the game and both being used a little bit later on because of foul trouble, there were a few more players seeing action for Ole Miss.
Kennedy used only seven players at Arkansas as Huertas missed the game.
On the line
n Saturday’s game was a physical one, as evidenced by the 72 combined free throws. Ole Miss hit 24 of 35, while MSU was 28 of 37. Bost and Riley Benock both hit a pair of crucial free throws in the final minute.
“More important than making them or missing them, we were getting there,” Stansbury said. “That’s not easy to do on the road, especially against a team that zones us a bunch.”
n “This feeling right here gives us momentum going into the tournament, knowing we can win against any team.” – MSU point guard Dee Bost, on winning two straight