March 3, 2011 9:40:00 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Ravern Johnson has little doubt the Mississippi State men''s basketball team has talent on par with any other.
The senior is doing his best to add a touch of consistency in an otherwise inconsistent season for the Bulldogs.
Johnson continued his recent hot shooting with 25 points Wednesday night in an 88-78 win at the University of Arkansas. He hit 5 of 8 3-pointers to help MSU secure a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference West Division and a first-round bye next week in the conference tournament.
"We''ve been very inconsistent the whole year," Johnson said. "The last couple of games we''ve been playing good ball, and I feel like we''re going to keep getting better as it goes along and into the SEC Tournament.
"I feel like we have the talent."
The Bulldogs (16-13, 8-7 SEC) knew prior to the game that a win would earn them the No. 2 seed and bye.
Arkansas knew it needed to defeat MSU and get some help to earn the same. The Razorbacks (18-11, 7-8) received that help when Auburn defeated Mississippi on Wednesday, but a late run by the Bulldogs and 10 second-half turnovers proved too much to overcome.
"It''s tough," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "We''re disappointed with our game here first and foremost."
Johnson was suspended and didn''t play in MSU''s win against Arkansas on Feb. 9. He returned for the following game and scored three points in a loss at Auburn.
Since then, Johnson has averaged 19.4 points and has now connected on 19 of 30 3-pointers. On Wednesday, he scored 13 of his 25 points in the first half, finishing 9 of 14 from the field. MSU shot 49.2 percent (29 of 59).
"I wasn''t a very smart coach to suspend him earlier," MSU coach Rick Stansbury joked.
Arkansas led 39-35 at halftime after hitting 6 of 11 3-pointers. Rotnei Clarke (24 points) continued the hot shooting in the second half with a 3-pointer that put the Razorbacks up 45-37.
Marshawn Powell (14 points, 13 rebounds) put Arkansas up 60-58 in the second half with a pair of free throws.
Kodi Augustus followed for the Bulldogs with a jumper and 3-pointer to go up 63-60. The lead swelled to 73-63 after a pair of free throws by Dee Bost, capping a 15-3 run. Arkansas was unable to get closer than six points after that.
"The game was never over, really," Clarke said. "We just didn''t make plays at the end that we could have made, and they made plays well."
Augustus scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half for the Bulldogs, who also got 14 points from Renardo Sidney.
The two-game winning streak for the Bulldogs comes on the heels of a home loss to LSU, which followed a win against rival Ole Miss. It''s an up-and-down stretch that has characterized much of MSU''s season, though Stansbury is hopeful for more consistent play moving forward.
"We''re nowhere near where we really need to be, just because of the inconsistencies," Stansbury said. "We''re inconsistent with some efforts in positions, defending at certain times, but it''s better than it was."
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