I caught the Mississippi State Bulldogs take on the Auburn Tigers this past Saturday on ESPN360. It was a good win for the Bulldogs on the plains as they routed the Tigers by 19, 83-64. Since MSU does not have a mid-week game this Wednesday, here’s a break-down of the Auburn game in segments.
The Bulldogs come out hot in the first four plus minutes and build a 19-4 lead. They easily establish an inside presence with work in the paint. Charles Rhodes shows versatility around the block with 11 points, 5 coming off FTs. Rhodes is definitely displaying a sense of urgency. At the 16:15 mark, he had a monster dunk after he kept his own miss alive with a hustling tip, Hansbrough ended up with the offensive rebound who fed the ball right back to Rhodes. Talk about urgency. Varnado held down the defensive end with a couple blocks and a couple rebounds. Jarvis also looked good scoring the first points of the game with a composed post move. Jamont Gordon is playing like a point guard with 3 assists and 0 turnovers. Gordon has neither scored nor forced the issue. Ben Hansbrough gets into the offense with a wide open three off an out-of-bounds play. Historically, the most successful Mississippi State out-under play is to throw it to a man past half court. Overall the Bulldogs have 8 points in the paint and a 7-0 rebounding edge. Result: +15
Around the 15 minute mark, Jamont Gordon feeds his itch with a three-point attempt, his first shot. If he wants to get going, he should create by powering his way to the basket. The Bulldogs continue to pound it down low as a team. Auburn has no choice but to foul, putting MSU in the bonus with 14.5 minutes left.
Things that are rare: Bulldogs getting what they want on offense and knocking down FTs, a total of 11-11 for the game. MSU team defense involves swarming the ball and getting to all the loose ones; hard work is also evident by the 16-3 rebounding margin. The two studs, Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes continue to lead as neither has a turnover so far. Plain and simple, playing this well derives from the stars taking care of the ball. The Bulldogs maintain with a 25-12 lead at the 10 minute mark. Result: -2
As a result of the Bulldogs getting their way inside, Auburn packs in the D. At the 9:30, Frank Tolbert of Auburn threw down a monster dunk…..the result of Jamont Gordon giving him the baseline and the absence of proper help defense. Varnado was close, but wanted to avoid picking up a 3rd foul. After this, Jamont shows the true colors we know with a turnover, his first of the game on a 5 second call. That makes 80 turnovers to Gordon’s 102 assists on the year, not exactly ideal for a starting point guard. Ravern Johnson follows this sequence with a smooth baseline jumper at the 8:30 mark. Ben Hansbrough did a great job of driving the ball right to the SEC logo below the free-throw line, and as the Auburn defense collapsed, Johnson made himself available to receive the pass. The Bulldogs take a 27-14 lead, but good can’t be left alone as Rhodes commits his first turnover, 8 is the team total 12 minutes into the game. With just over 7 minutes left in the first half, Jamont Gordon takes a power drive and hits acrobatic shot, pure strength. Ravern Johnson caps off this segment with an aggressive drive to the hoop. His versatile game makes me feel better about Gordon leaving for the NBA (it’s most likely). The Bulldogs are in the driver’s seat with a 33-17 lead. Result: +3
Auburn’s Frank Tolbert has 6 fingers on each hand, similar to Antonio Alfonseca, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Not only does Alfonseca have 6 fingers on each hand, but El Pulpo also has 6 toes on each foot. No word on Tolbert’s foot, but Frank does describe himself as “crazy, crazy, crazy” and is damn proud of those extra digits.
Why the Bulldog Basketball future looks bright: 1) Ben Hansbrough can hit crazy fade-away 30 foot three pointers as he spits in the face of mononucleosis. 2) Varnado is beginning to show improved footwork. 3) Barry Stewart didn’t do much in the first half. He hit a 3 on just his second attempt with under 2 minutes left. Still, it was nice to see him splash some water on his face. 4) Riley Benock looks like a smart player and is not afraid to take a charge from the 6’8″ Quan Prowell.
At the half, the Bulldogs lead by 15 despite 12 turnovers. After initially bragging about Gordon’s lack of mistakes, he comes through with 3 turnovers in the final 2:15, 4 total in the game for Jamont.. Does a ticking clock lead to carelessness? Result: -3
Overall, with the 44-29 lead, Mississippi State was more dominant in the paint on both ends. Offensively, they shot 56.5% to Auburn’s 29%, got 14 points in the paint and 7 second chance points. The Bulldogs also lived up to their rebounding reputation besting the Tigers 26-8. The one negative is that the Dogs started settling for perimeter looks after establishing a presence down low. I’ve would’ve like to see them pound it just a little bit more.
The game announcers start the 2 nd half by praising Ben Hansbrough. I agree, he played aggressive, yet composed in the first half. Rhodes also had a nice half, but sometimes, he needs to let the game come to him. He has the tendency to force the action…..case in point as it only takes a minute for him to get a turnover. Still, a decent start to the period for State finds Jamont Gordon bulldogging his way to a lay-up putting MSU up 16, 48-32. Varnado follows with a block, his 5th of the game. He already passed Big Damp’s single season record of 106. I give it to Stansbury, not only can he recruit blue chip talent, but he can also find hidden gems like Jarvis Varnado and Barry Stewart. “Swat” goes on to get a dunk and then makes another aggressive move for a bucket, all within the first 3 minutes. I’ve heard Stansbury say that Varnado has a high basketball IQ; this is evident in the fact his offense has vastly improved, even as this season has progressed. Unfortunately, Auburn is going at him when they have the ball, as the book goes against frail shot blockers, and Jarvis picks up his 4th foul within the first 4 minutes. Still, nothing is going Auburn’s way in contrast to Mississippi State. Result: +2
Gordon starts this segment off with another turnover. He tried to spin without seeing where was going and gave the ball right to DeWayne Reed. Auburn scored in two seconds. Not a minute later, Jamont gets his pocket picked by Frank Tolbert, more Auburn points. Gordon is having trouble protecting the ball by keeping himself between it and his man. The Bulldogs continue to be careless, racking up 19 turnovers, Gordon leading with 7. With three more turnovers and four more assists, Gordon will have a quadruple-double (11 points and 10 rebounds already). I’m kinda pulling for him. Within the first 8.5 minutes of the 2nd half, Auburn is able to cut the Mississippi State lead to 10, 60-50. Result: -8
Gordon finally starts to break the Auburn pressure. Sometimes, as Gilbert Arenas says, you must go right at and through the defenders. Gordon certainly has the body to do it. If you hesitate and try to think, you start making mistakes. Of course upon doing this, Gordon nails a 3. Does he make up for his mistakes? Or do his mistakes offset his success? Nonetheless, Gordon goes on a tear for a 3 minute stretch with 8 points off two 3-pointers and a pair of FTs. I guess 14-15 from the FT line as a team can offset the 20 team turnovers. Auburn has 26 points off the Mississippi State turnovers. The score is 70-52 with 8 minutes left. Could you image if this team didn’t give the ball away so much? Result: +8
Pretty much the end. With 5:30 left the game starts to get physical, on the verge of chippy. To sum up the Auburn crowd: they suck. All you can hear is a couple obscene students with no comedic ability. Jeff Lebo compounds matter when he gets a tech. He had a beef though; Barry Stewart actually did foul Tolbert on the drive in question. Of course, Gordon could not end the game without being lackadaisical in bringing the ball up the court, getting a 10 second call. I’m going to start calling him “Slippery Slope” because once he gets one turnover, it’s almost as if he says ‘eff it’ and opens the flood-gates. Jamont finishes the game with 24 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 8 turnovers. In the end, business is handled to the tune of 83-64 Bulldogs. That’s 12 out of the last 14 against the Tigers; long time since the dominant days of Chris Porter. I still remember him hitting a 3 from the corner late one MSU home game to seal the deal.
The ‘If you woulda told me that’ Stat: Zero fast break points for the Bulldogs, 12 for the Auburn Tigers.
No getting around the fact that Auburn is just a bad team and the Bulldogs should beat them down. The Tigers have two conference wins, one against a horrendous LSU squad and another versus an over-rated Ole Miss team. They have no depth (also dealing with injuries), no ability to penetration, no inside presence from their bigs, and no shooters.
Box Score from M-State Athletics
Box from ESPN.com
Clarion-Ledger Game Story
Up Next: A big home rematch against Arkansas on Saturday.