SMITH COLUMN: MSU seniors refused to be disappointed
MSU seniors Kodi Augustus, from left, Riley Benock and Ravern Johnson stand with MSU coach Rick Stansbury and wife Meo prior to Saturday's game. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
Kodi Augustus, Ravern Johnson and Riley Benock remembered what last year's Senior Day at Mississippi State felt like.
The Bulldogs were unable to send seniors Barry Stewart and Jarvis Varnado, two players that had meant so much to the program, out with a victory in their last appearance at Humphrey Coliseum. The Tennessee Volunteers jumped out to a big lead on the way to a 75-59 win.
Down the stretch of Saturday's final home game against South Carolina, another MSU loss looked like a distinct possibility.
After taking a 13-point lead with 5:32 remaining to play in the game, the Bulldogs had to hold on for a 60-58 victory over the Gamecocks.
Augustus and Johnson combined for 36 of MSU's 60 points. Johnson led the Bulldogs with 21 points.
"It feels real good to know we got a big win on Senior Day in the last time we're going to play at the Hump," Johnson said. "It's a real good feeling."
Benock may not have scored, but he played his usual solid floor game. His defense on the final play of the game to get a hand in the face of Bruce Ellington was key. Ellington's shot attempt at the buzzer would have given South Carolina the win, but Benock found a way to contest the shot and it missed the mark.
"Riley Benock is really good defensively," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "He's athletic, anticipates and knows how to come off screens. He's a piece out there right now and does a lot of things to help the team."
Augustus seemed to carry over his play from the other night at Arkansas when he scored 23 points in the 88-78 victory.
Against the Gamecocks, Augustus had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. He became the 32nd Bulldog to reach the 500 mark in career boards.
As far as character, Augustus has come a long way and it shows by the way he plays.
"I am awfully proud of Kodi because of how far he's come," Stansbury said. "Kodi gets it now."
Augustus, Johnson and Benock are going to be instrumental on how MSU handles the Southeastern Conference Tournament spotlight next week. They were all on the 2009 team that went to Tampa, Fla. and won the event.
Getting the bye is huge because all the Bulldogs have to do is win three games in three days. All they have to do is stretch the current three-game winning streak to six.
Anything is possible with this basketball team and Stansbury has been able to pull something out of the hat before at the SEC Tournament when no one expected him to.
It will be interesting to see if MSU and its senior leadership can stay hot in Hot-lanta next week.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.
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