TAMPA, Fla. - Kodi Augustus finally seems to have his attitude, work ethic and game in shape.
If it would have happened sooner, Mississippi State might be a lock for the NCAA tournament.
Augustus, who started the first nine games of the season before getting benched because of his lackadaisical effort, scored a career-high 19 points and Mississippi State beat Georgia 79-60 Thursday in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Augustus was 6 of 9 from the field and 3 of 4 from 3-point range - an unexpected hot streak for a sophomore who came into the tournament averaging 5.4 points a game and shooting just 22 percent (4 of 18) from behind the arc.
'I was really surprised,' said Georgia's Terrance Woodbury, who led his team with 14 points and seven rebounds. 'We went over him a little bit ... but I didn't think he was going to be as good as he was. He played real well, and I want to say that's a real plus for them as far as advancing in this tournament.
'If he keeps up his aggressiveness as far as what he did against us, they pretty much have the talent to beat anybody.'
Augustus and Mississippi State (20-12) certainly made quick work of Georgia (12-20), the defending SEC champs who were looking to make another shocking run through the tournament. This year, it could be Mississippi State's turn. The team will face South Carolina in today's second round, probably needing a couple more wins to earn an NCAA berth.
MSU can only hope Augustus keeps it up. He hit consecutive 3-pointers to start a 16-2 run midway through the opening half that turned a tight game into double-digit lead.
Jarvis Varnado, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, made a couple of shots in the paint. Riley Benock hit a jumper and suddenly MSU looked more like the team that started 6-2 in conference play rather than the one that lost five of its next six.