March 5, 2009
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State men''s basketball team needed an emotional effort Wednesday night.
After MSU coach Rick Stansbury said his team played "with no passion" for the first time this season in a loss to Auburn on Saturday, he was satisfied with his team''s performance Wednesday night in an 80-71 victory against the Florida Gators at Humphrey Coliseum.
"We played with emotion," Stansbury said. "Sometimes when you do that it clears the mind and gets rid of some of those cobwebs. When you play hard and the only thing that matters is that you play to win, then good things happen."
Stansbury said it wasn''t unusual to see his team rebound to deliver that kind of effort. What was unusual was to see a lackluster performance against Auburn.
Stansbury called Wednesday''s game a "must-win" for his Bulldogs (18-12, 8-7 Southeastern Conference), who play at Ole Miss at 4 p.m. Saturday with the third seed in the Western Division on the line for the SEC tournament.
"We''re still playing for something," Stansbury said. "They are keeping score and you play to win it. We''ve got eight wins in the SEC, and that''s not easy to do. I''m proud of where we are."
After being shut out by Auburn, MSU''s bench outscored Florida''s 26-12.
When the Bulldogs are getting that kind of contribution from the reserves, it gives starters like junior center Jarvis Varnado (13 points, eight rebounds) confidence.
"When we come together like this, we can really be hard to beat," Varnado said.
The biggest surprise off the bench was sophomore forward Kodi Augustus, who scored an SEC-high nine points in 15 minutes. Augustus was determined to give Stansbury what he was looking for.
"Everybody talked before the game that we had to play with more effort because we didn''t do that in the last game," Augustus said. "That''s what I trying to do when I got in."
An Augustus dunk, his sixth point of the first half, with one minute remaining capped a 7-0 run and gave MSU a 42-33 halftime lead.
Stansbury rewarded Augustus for his eight solid minutes in the first half with seven more in the second half.
"If you go in and play well, you are going to get more," Stansbury said. "That''s where it is. All we ask him to do is play hard. I thought he was bouncing around, moving, and did some things we anticipated Kodi doing a long time ago."
The Bulldogs stretched the margin to 66-51 on a basket by freshman guard Twany Beckham with seven minutes to play. Beckham spelled freshman Dee Bost at point guard.
"Sometimes if starters are not doing something, you bring those guys off the bench and it gives you some energy and emotion," Stansbury said. "It can get you going. We didn''t have that Saturday, but (Wednesday) we had it."
Even though the Gators (21-9, 8-7) cut into the margin thanks to the 3-point shooting of Walter Hodge (20 points), their comeback fell short.
Florida didn''t have an answer for Augustus, the seven points from Riley Benock, and the six points from Elgin Bailey, but MSU''s depth didn''t surprise coach Billy Donovan.
"We knew Rick had been playing that way," Donovan said. "Sometimes they like to go with a big lineup and sometimes they have a little lineup. We were not surprised with anyone they brought in."
Ravern Johnson had 15 points and Barry Stewart added 12 points for MSU, which learned after the game that Bailey will be lost for the season with a severe dislocation of his ankle.