I know there’s a joke involving the Gators and “Barely Legal” somewhere here….Anyway, after losing the 2-time National Championship squad starters, the Gators are fighting along with 7 freshman, 3 sophomores and 2 juniors this season; one of those juniors has only played 9 minutes this season. I’d say that Billy Donovan has done a pretty nice job this year and is well deserving of the University of Florida taking him back. Heck, Billy even has clearance to give his own version of Rick Stansbury’s habitual song and slow dance of having fresh meat on his roster as a precursory opt-out from potential future troubles. Of the players who “matter,” Mississippi State has 5 frosh [1 RS] and and 3 sophs). So yea, the Bulldogs are far from a veteran team, but Billy Donovan doesn’t have himself a Jamont Gordon and a Charles Rhodes.
But before the game…..CBS stole from me. Being in Washington, DC, the local CBS game after Georgetown vs. Marquette was the Texas vs. Texas Tech match-up. So, I headed over to the Crystal City Sports Pub with my father to check out my Dawgs on satellite TV, as it was promised the game would be shown.
Regardless of CBS alternative channels available via satellite, neither the Gators-Bulldogs, nor the Red Raiders-Longhorns were being shown until the G’Town-Marquette match-up ended. Misery. Of course, as fate would have it, the game went into overtime as Marquette proved they were far from deserving of a win. With 2.8 seconds left in regulation, and up 3 points, Dominic James of the Golden Eagles fouled Georgetown’s Jonathan Wallace on a 3 point attempt. Wallace, being Georgetown’s best FT shooter ever…or something like that….made all 3. Great, overtime; I figured that I wouldn’t be seeing the Mississippi State game until half, a phone check by some other Bulldog fans at CCSP to their friends back in Starkville would confirm that they were also deprived of the game. The worst part about was the Marquette foul on the 3 point attempt. James didn’t have his arms high contesting a potential game-tying shot, he was called for swatting his hands down at Wallace. What was he thinking? In any case, Georgetown went on to win in OT as Marquette couldn’t even get a shot off down two with the ball and the clock ticking away. Mentioned as an “undervalued” coach by CBS earlier in the game, I’d say that Tom Crean blew that one.
Back to CBS, they blew it more than Marquette. The official word from the Crystal City Sports Pub staff was that the CBS alternate feed was not working. I took their word for it….seemed perfectly plausible. Nonetheless, the staff and customer service was more than you could ask for. However, as the CCSP was bringing out their own laptop to somehow pull up the game on CBSSportsline and to somehow connect the computer to the flat-screen to show the game, my dad and I could take it no longer, especially after I saw another patron blow his nose in the bathroom sink. You stay classy Crystal City Sport Pub guy wearing a Detroit Tigers hat. My father and I headed out to his truck to listen to Jim Ellis and Jack Cristil on the radio. By the time we made it, there was 13 minutes left in the 2nd half and a 41-36 lead for the Bulldogs.
Ok, well, thoughts on hearing the last 13 minutes of the Mississippi State – Florida game over the radio:
After relying mostly on cell-phone reports from other Bulldog fans at CCSP (CBS was inadequate at giving updates during the Georgetown game as well), I knew the MSU halftime lead was 12. But by that 13 minute mark of the 2nd half, Florida had cut the lead down to 5….that’s when Charles Rhodes, with only 7 points at that point of the game, began to make his push. He went on to hustle, score, and go to war; dominating the paint with 8 points in the next 5 minutes, aided by a Ben Hansbrough 3 pointer and a Barry Stewart bucket as the Bulldog lead was pushed back to 12 with 7:00 left, 54-42. During this stretch, Jim Ellis really liked the Bulldog spacing and ball movement on offense, this was later supported by evidence I would see in the form of ESPN highlights. Seems like Florida saw this coming, guess they left their brains at home today. But regardless of Florida’s lack of interior presence, the Bulldogs were snagging all the loose balls, another fact of which Jim Ellis was proud.
The Gators were able to hang around thanks to a couple 3 pointers by Chandler Parsons, whose name sounds like he plays with a piece of argyle clothing somewhere on him during games….maybe socks? Marreese Speights (why didn’t his parent(s) just go ahead and double up on the a’s and s’s in his name too?) also appeared, or sounded, to be all over the court. He finished the day with 20-10.
Of course, none of this could not have happened with (or without) Jamont Gordon who picked up his 4th foul on a careless charge with 9:38 left in the game. My dad wondered if charges count as turnovers, they do. When Florida began to press, I was somewhat glad that Jamont Gordon was not in the game. When Hansbrough was injured, Jamont was the only one who could bring the ball up the court. But let’s just say that sometimes Gordon’s recklessness negates his positive efforts and this team has been playing much better since Tyler’s little brother got healthy.
The Florida Gators were even able to get their deficit down to 6 at 58-52 with just over 3 minutes left. Thankfully, Hansbrough followed with a huge 3, very nicely set-up by Jamont Gordon penetration (I guess teams will still always make Gordon their focus when defending, regardless of how he is doing in a given game — he only ended up with 4 points on the afternoon). The Dawgs would go on to close out the game from there as the Gators would get no closer than 9 points the rest of the way.
The final score: 68-59 Bulldogs, a huge road win. Four SEC West titles in the past six years for the Mississippi State Bulldogs — I’d say a pretty damn good job of program building by Rick Stansbury. The Gators were able to cut into a dominant day by the Bulldogs and get within 5 or 6 points a couple of times, but they simply didn’t have the horses. Their late game pressure wasn’t much I suppose as the Bulldogs were able to survive on only 8 team turnovers…WOW!, did I just type that?
From the Stansbury post-game comments file:
- Poor fella, his hoarse voice is progressively getting worse over the years. He sounds like he’s near his death bed after some games now…..and he’s only 48.
- From Stans’ initial statements, it’s clear that he gave the “no one else outside this locker room thinks you can win” speech before the game….and from my memory, that one usually worked. Of course, my dad figured that Florida, being the home team, would be a 4 or 5 point favorite. Sheridan’s odds on USAToday had the Gators giving 3.5 — really, that’s not much for a 2-time defending national champion at home. I’d say that there were a lot of Kenny Rogers’ (the gambler, not the baseball player) across the nation who thought the Bulldogs would win.
- Stansbury also liked the fact that the Bulldogs really attacked the basket, evident by MSU shooting 25 FTs to Florida’s 11 attempts. Of course, Rick didn’t mention that his team missed 10 of those 25 attempts.
Overall, even the most pessimistic of Bulldog fans (I’m not including myself in this category, but there are many, many out there — I’m speaking to a fella known as “Boss Hog”) can find joy in a big win like this. Dr. Jack C gave credit to the Dawgs taking care of the ball…those aforementioned 8 turnovers. Stansbury cited an “efficient” Jarvis Varnado who had 11 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocks (and a big inside bucket against UF man-D with 3:34 left to put the Dawgs up 58-50), in addition to the fact that the fans in the “Gator Zone” never got into the game as Florida was held to scoring about 20 points below their season average.
Shady John Brady was in the heazy….as reported on the Clarion-Ledger MSU blog by Kyle Veazey. The other Kyle was not sure why former LSU coach John Brady was at the game, but I have my suspicions: perhaps he wanted to play a little game of wife-swap with Billy Donovan, as both of their main ladies were recently cited among the more hotter wives of college basketball head coaches. Hmmm….not sure who I would pick myself. As speculated here and here, John Brady is rumored to be married to a former/current stripper/aerobics instructor, “The” Misty Champagne. Then again, considering Billy Donovan’s recent financial troubles, the wifey may be bailing on him soon.