Mississippi State’s seniors all said Saturday’s game would’ve been emotional and they were right.
All of the emotions of the 7,211 fans were accounted for during the Bulldogs 60-58 over South Carolina on Senior Day at Humphrey Coliseum.
Elation occurred when Kodi Augustus hit a 15-foot jump shot while falling toward the Mississippi State bench to for the Bulldogs final basket.
“He practices that shot a lot so it wasn’t a surprise,” junior point guard Dee Bost said. “He thinks he’s Kobe Bryant and he makes it when he’s messing around.”
South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn’s emotion was shock.
“Credit Kodi Augustus because that shot is an example of him doing what upperclassmen are supposed to do,” Horn said. “A one-foot turnaround with a hand in his face (and) I won’t fault how we defended that.”
There was anger and confusion seconds later when Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury was assessed a technical foul by official John Hampton with his team only up three points for being on the playing court.
“I’m just trying to get a timeout and I guess he never saw me because (Hampton) is laying there up underneath the basket with the pom pom girls,” Stansbury said. “He ran by me and didn’t say anything then. I accept responsibility for it.”
Despite watching their team win its third straight game, the Humphrey Coliseum crowd booed Hampton, Doug Shows and Antinio Petty all the way down the playing floor.
Worry came next when South Carolina, a five-point underdog that had previously lost four in a row to Mississippi State, had a chance to win on two jump shots by freshman point guard Bruce Ellington.
“We all wanted our seniors to leave on a good note,” Bost said. “They wanted to win and we all did. They deserve this win.”
Relief followed seconds later as time expired and Mississippi State (17-13, 9-7 in SEC play) won its third straight game as the senior duo of Augustus and Ravern Johnson combined for 36 points and 10 three-pointers for the afternoon.
Johnson tied his career high with seven connections from beyond the three-point arc in his final regular season game in Starkville to lead all scorers with 21 points in 38 minutes of action. The senior 6-foot-7 guard became the first MSU player this year to score 20-plus points in three-straight games with the last player to accomplish that being Jarvis Varnado.
“I’ve just been feeling it the last couple of games,” Johnson said. “After I got the first shot out of my system, I calmed down because I thought I would air ball that first one.”
Augustus recorded his ninth double-double of the season (15 points and 10 rebounds) and held South Carolina’s second-leading scorer Sam Muldrow to just four second-half points, 10 for the entire game.
“Kodi is really playing hard for us right now,” Stansbury said. “I’ve said this many times that I’m awful proud of Kodi of how far he’s come. He gets it now. His game has become consistent.”
The Gamecocks (14-15, 5-11) slowly crawled back into the game with a 36-10 advantage on points in the paint and controlling the tempo with an effective 2-3 zone halfcourt trap.
“We played a lot of zone knowing they would shoot a lot of threes,” Horn said. “You look at the overall percentage with them shooting 37 percent means I thought we did a unbelievable job with our defensive effort.”
The Bulldogs were going to be the second seed in the Western Division regardless of the outcome Saturday and will find out who their potential opponent is in next week’s SEC Tournament this afternoon when the regular season concludes.
“We got a lot of momentum going into the SEC Tournament so I always feel there’s something about how we always click in the end where we do well in that tournament,” Johnson said.