STARKVILLE, Miss. - A fast-break lay-up by Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele led the Bulldogs past Appalachian State 76-74 in a men’s basketball game played Friday night in the Humphrey Coliseum.
Kodi Augustus blocked ASU’s Donald Sims’ potential game-winning 3-point shot attempt with one second left in regulation. Sims, the nation’s leading 3-point shooter a season ago, led all scorers with 40 points, including seven 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs (2-0) actually trailed 73-64 before a frantic final 2:00, which saw the Bulldogs close out the win with a 12-1 run.
Brian Bryant sank three free throws to bring the Maroon and White within 74-73. After Sims missed a 3-pointer, the Bulldogs traveled with the rebound. On the inbounds, Twanny Beckham got the steal and fed Steele who streaked uncontested to the basket for the go-ahead points.
The defense rose again with Bryant coming up with the next steal. After a foul, Ravern Johnson split a pair of free throws, creating the final margin with four seconds left.
“I am really proud of the progress that we made from last week,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “It was a gutsy win. We had a lot of players come off the bench to play positions they don’t normally play. We are what we are right now. However, I am proud of the effort and how hard we played. I am also proud of the fact that we made some plays at end to get the win.
“This was a great lesson about never giving up. It is much easier to come back, coach, and correct the mistakes after a win.”
The frantic finish seemed highly unlikely after the opening half. The Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. MSU scored the first five points of the game and only trailed once in the opening half, at 6-5. A 3-point by Riley Benock staked the Bulldogs to an 18-11 advantage. A putback in the lane by Wendell Lewis ran the advantage to 30-19 with 6:27 left in the half.
The Bulldogs would lead by as many as 13 before settling for a 43-32 advantage at halftime.
“I was really proud of our offensive production in the first half,” Stansbury said. “Now, we have to learn how to play two halves in the same game. Riley (Benock) did a good job on Sims in the opening half, even though he had 17 points. It seemed like we struggled to guard him after Riley got a little banged up.”
The Mountaineers (2-1) stormed back in the final half. A half-opening 18-6 run was capped by a putback from Sims and saw ASU go up 50-49 with 13:36 remaining. The lead would go back and forth with the Bulldogs clinging to a 61-60 advantage with 6:27 remaining.
Eventually, foul trouble and the Bulldogs’ full-court pressure defense really took its toll. By the time the contest ended, four different ASU starters fouled out.
Still the Mountaineers - behind seven straight points from Sims - led 73-64 before a free throw by Augustus and 3-point make by Benock capped off the furious game-ending rally.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 25 of 57 shots from the field (43.9 percent), 8 of 22 shots from 3-point range (36.4 percent) and 18 of 29 shots from the foul line (62.1 percent). The Mountaineers hit 25 of 67 shots from the field (37.3 percent), 9 of 31 shots from 3-point range (29.0 percent) and 15 of 24 shots from the foul line (62.5 percent).
Appalachian held a 44-43 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 14 assists and 11 turnovers, while the Mountaineers had 12 assists and 10 turnovers.
Augustus paced the Bulldogs with his second double-double (26 points, 10 rebounds). With his efforts, Augustus also topped the 500-point mark and 300-rebound mark for career superlatives. Ravern Johnson added 19 points. Twanny Beckham had a career-high seven assists and only one turnover in 26 minutes of play.
Behind Sims, Nathan Healy added 13 points to the Mountaineers’ cause.
The Bulldogs resume their season-opening nine-game homestand with Detroit at 7 p.m. Monday night. Tickets will be available for $5 on game day at the coliseum.