February 14, 2010 12:20:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- It''s a ritual that provided foreshadowing Dee Bost was only too happy to provide.
Mired in a shooting slump the past six games, Bost has been taking extra shots in practice in an attempt to rediscover his stroke.
After a hot-shooting first half Saturday in which he hit three 3-pointers and scored 14 points, Bost couldn''t help hoist a few more from distance before the start of the second half.
It''s usually a tradition for players to take one final shot before the halftime horn, and Bost obliged, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Tempted, he launched another, this time falling back a little as he shot it. The shot fell through with a flick of the wrist.
More than 25 minutes later, Bost was still in rhythm and pushing his team to a clutch victory.
Bost had five of his career-high 32 points in overtime to lead MSU to an 85-75 victory against Auburn before a crowd of 8,854 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Bost went 11-for-19 from the field (7-for-12 from 3-point range) and had nine rebounds and four assists to help the Bulldogs (18-7, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) move into a tie with Arkansas, which lost to Alabama, for first place in the SEC West.
Barry Stewart (12 points, six rebounds, five assists), Romero Osby (11 points), Jarvis Varnado (10 points, 12 rebounds, five blocked shots), and Phil Turner (10 points, six rebounds) also scored in double figures for MSU.
And while Turner and Osby had key plays at the end of regulation and Varnado''s hook shot at the start of OT gave the Bulldogs the lead for good, Bost''s play was the spark that helped MSU rally.
"Bost hurt us at the point position tonight," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "We did not guard him very well tonight."
Bost''s seven 3-pointers were the second most in school history. Four players have made eight, with the last being Winston Frazier against Missouri-Kansas City on Nov. 23, 2004. He also is the first player to score 30 or more points since Varnado had 31 last season against LSU.
"It just took work and I guess I finally found (my stroke)," Bost said. "I just have to keep it going."
Varnado''s hook shot with 2:49 to go in OT gave MSU the lead for good. Bost scored on a drive with the shot clock running down to kick the lead to 78-74. He then added a dagger 3-pointer after he went left off a high screen from Varnado to push the lead to 81-75. You could almost tell the 3-pointer was going to fall because Bost had the same flick of the wrist he showed at the end of halftime.
"I always have confidence," Bost said. "It is just a matter of how much confidence I am going to have to take the shot. I am just going to keep working on my shot and it will come back."
Lebo knew Bost would be hard to guard despite the fact he was stuck in a 14-for-54 slump (25.9 percent). The sophomore point guard had hit only 5-for-30 from 3-point range until breaking out in a big way Saturday.
"Last year, he hurt us in both games, and he hurt us again tonight," Lebo said.
There were eight lead changes in the final 10 minutes. A steal by Turner on a drive by Lucas Hargrove (20 points, 10 rebounds) with less than a minute to play in regulation helped set up a dunk by Osby off a pass from Stewart. Osby completed the three-point play with 30 seconds remaining, but DeWayne Reed scored on a drive with 16 seconds to go to tie that game at 74.
Bost had a chance to win it in regulation, but he lost a shot/pass in the lane with 2.1 seconds left. Auburn set up one final play, as Frankie Sullivan swooped across at three-quarter quarter and contacted Turner, but no call was made. Sullivan''s heave at the basket fell well short.
In the OT, Auburn went 0-for-9 from the field en route to its second consecutive loss in extra time. The Tigers lost at Arkansas 82-79 in OT on Feb. 6.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury praised Lebo and his players for their effort, saying the Tigers are one of the hardest teams to guard in the SEC. He had even more kind words for Bost and his shooting performance.
"It was a great individual effort by Dee Bost," Stansbury said. "When Dee got going he was in a rhythm and shot it with a lot of confidence, attacked with confidence, and made a lot of plays."
Bost said he felt his shooting stroke come to him early in the game and he continued to play hard. He missed his first 3-pointer and then scored on a layup and a conventional three-point play.
By the time Bost had missed his second 3-pointer, Auburn (12-13, 3-7) had taken a 31-17 lead and was threatening to run away with it.
But Bost found his touch with a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 4 seconds remaining in the half. He added two more in 52 seconds that helped settle MSU and allowed them to trail only 38-35 at halftime.
Bost went right off a high screen to hit a 3-pointer that gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the second half, 45-44, with just less than 5 minutes remaining. He found his stroke again later in the half, nailing another trey to help MSU retake the lead, 59-58.
n NOTES: Varnado''s five blocks give him 519 for his career, which leaves him 16 shy of tying the all-time NCAA mark of 535 held by Louisiana-Monroe''s Wojciech Mydra. His 12 rebounds pushed his career total to 1,010 and helped him become the third player in school history (Bailey Howell, Rickey Brown) to reach 1,000. ... Stewart''s three 3-pointers give him 254 for his career, which is four shy of tying Darryl Wilson''s school record of 258. ... Ravern Johnson played just four minutes in the second half after getting bumper hard on the nose. He had only three points. Osby picked up the slack by tying a season high with 24 minutes.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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