March 4, 2011 11:10:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Just three days after their seniors came up big in the most important win of the season, the Mississippi State men''s basketball team will honor the group at 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) when it plays host to the University of South Carolina.
Seniors Ravern Johnson and Kodi Augustus scored 25 and 23 points, respectively, Wednesday in an 88-78 win at Arkansas. Both players recorded season-highs in league play.
The win, MSU''s third in its past four games, clinched second place in the Southeastern Conference''s Western Division and earned the Bulldogs (16-13, 8-7) a first-round bye in the league tournament next week in Atlanta.
A game prior to beating Arkansas, Johnson scored a team-high 20 and Augustus had 15 points and 10 rebounds in a one-point win at Tennessee.
"We played with another level of confidence," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said following the win against Arkansas. "Kodi was a warrior tonight, offensively and defensively."
Stansbury has praised Johnson for rebounding from a two-game suspension and elevating his game. Johnson was relegated to the bench after returning from suspension and has been in the starting lineup the past two games. A season-ending injury to Jalen Steele played a role in the move.
Johnson has scored 15 points or more in each of the past five games, and is 19 of 30 from behind the 3-point arc in that span. He has scored 20 points or more in three of the past five.
"I like the way he''s responded to everything," Stansbury said. "Those are things, to him, I think will help him in so many ways with the way he has handled this situation. I personally think it''s made him better."
MSU''s seniors have had to do more due to the loss of Steele and the loss of two players to midseason transfers.
Augustus has been forced to play closer to the basket and to contribute more on the glass, which has seen him lead the Bulldogs in rebounding and get to the free-throw line a team-high 126 times, where he''s made 103.
Riley Benock, a first-year starter, has played in 129 games in his career, good for third-best in program history behind Jarvis Varnado and Barry Stewart (141).
Benock averaged close to 10 minutes per game in his first three seasons but has played 31.8 per game this season. He is averaging 6.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, and leads the team in 3-point percentage (44 percent).
His leadership helped Steele become a trusted option at two guard.
Benock said he hasn''t thought much of what Senior Night will be like.
"I know it''s coming, but we''re just focused on the season," Benock said. "I guess there''ll be a time when I look back on it. It might not be so much Saturday as after the season when I look back on it and realize how fast everything went."
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