Basketball Bulldogs Advance in SEC Tournament

TAMPA, Fla. - Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado and the rest of his Bulldog teammates ushered in the postseason on a very strong note Thursday afternoon. Varnado recorded his 15th career double-double as MSU rolled over Georgia 79-60 in a Southeastern Conference Tournament first-round game played at St. Pete Times Forum.

The nation's premier shot blocker, Varnado scored 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, while adding three blocks to that ledger. Kodi Augustus also added 19 points off the bench. The Bulldogs connected for nine 3-point baskets. It all added up to an easy win for the maroon and white.

MSU (20-12), the Western Division third seed, will now meet South Carolina (21-8), the Eastern Division second seed, in a tournament quarterfinal matchup at 2:15 p.m. CT Friday. That contest will be televised regionally by Raycom Sports and shown in selected markets by Fox Sports Net and Sun Sports.

Georgia, the Eastern Division six seed, finishes the season at 12-20.

During the regular season, MSU defeated South Carolina 75-70 on Feb. 18 in the Humphrey Coliseum. While the Bulldogs look for a season sweep of USC, they already accomplished the same feat versus Georgia, closing the deal after a 67-61 win on Jan. 24 in Athens.

The tournament rematch had fewer tense moments, as MSU won for the fourth time in its last five conference tournament openers. MSU also made amends for a loss to Georgia in the semifinal round of last year's conference tournament.

MSU used a 10-0 run in the final minutes of the first half to open up a comfortable lead. A 3-pointer by Ravern Johnson gave MSU a 30-17 advantage with 5:49 left in the half. MSU then used an 8-3 run to ease out to a 40-26 lead at halftime.

A 3-pointer by UGA's Terrance Woodbury then cut the deficit to 47-42 with 15:13 left in the contest. Back-to-back 3-point baskets by Barry Stewart and Augustus sparked a 10-0 run as the maroon and white clad Bulldogs moved back out of danger.

For the contest, MSU hit 28 of 55 shots from the field (50.9 percent), 9 of 24 shots from 3-point range (37.5 percent) and 14 of 18 shots from the foul line (77.8 percent). Georgia hit 26 of 62 shots from the field (41.9 percent), 7 of 19 shots from 3-point range (36.8 percent) and 1 of 4 shots from the foul line (25 percent).

Ravern Johnson had 12 points for MSU, including three 3-point baskets. Dee Bost added a team-high seven rebounds.

Georgia received 14 points from Terrance Woodbury and 12 points from Trey Thompkins.

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