But to beat the Memphis Tigers, Rick Stansbury will want much more from the supporting cast. Against the Oregon Ducks, Jamont Gordon made a lot happen, but his scoring needs to be sweet for the Bulldogs to reach the round of 16.
But first, speaking of Oregon, here’s the game run-down:
Half Number One
First 5 Minutes: Jamont Gordon started out physical in guarding Malik Hairston while Charles Rhodes set his personal tone early getting a dunk for the game’s first points at the 18:30 mark. Three turnovers came for the Bulldogs in the first three and a quarter minutes, two coming from Ben Hansbrough. Crisp passing wasn’t on the agenda to start, chalk it up to nerves. Oregon shot more threes than I expected, 3-7 in this first segment. Rhodes started off on Oregon’s Maary Leunen, but when Jarvis Varnado was on the Ducks three point wizard, the lane was wide open for a Bryce Taylor layup which gave the Ducks an early 13-6 lead.
The Next 10 Minutes: “Play until you hear the whistle.” Ben Hansbrough is learned in the game of basketball as he got a steal off a near Oregon backcourt violation and sprinted the length of the court for a layup. Meanwhile, Rhodes wasn’t disciplined on defense. In a three possession sequence, Charles fell bad for a Leunen pump fake in the paint – layup; Rhodes got an offensive rebound and put-back off a Barry Stewart miss; and back down the court, Leunen got Charles to bite again with a fake three dribbling into a mid-range jumper, 21-17 Oregon.
Overall, Mississippi State ball movement was slow; Oregon was able to easily react and get in the right position. Abundant Bulldog misses gave the Oregon offense a head start. With a lightening quick 5’6″ point guard in Tajuan Porter, the Ducks pushed the rock to the tune of a 28-20 lead with seven minutes left.
Persistent work in the paint was still the key. Going to Rhodes down low led to a 2nd foul on Maarty Leunen. Having to sit with seven minutes left in the 1st half went towards disrupting his rhythm. On defense, the Bulldogs finally returned to man after a failed experiment with the zone – the result of a minor panic after Oregon hit some long distance buckets early in the game. Varnado’s work in the interior was of utmost importance, one block to this point, but he changed a lot of waddling duck shots. The Dogs did limit their mistakes during this stretch by committing only 2 turnovers – 5 total to Oregon’s 2.
Last Five: Heading into the final five minutes of the first half, Oregon had a 30-23 lead. Rhodes was dominating with 13 points while his teammates totaled 10. Even though the Bulldogs were shooting 38% from the field, I never felt like they were losing control. But Jamont Gordon didn’t help the cause of good vibrations with forcing the issue at times while Ben Hansbrough was doing a bad impression of a catch-and-shoot ball player. Ben, along with Barry Stewart, was added to the amber alert list. The Ducks ended the half with a Porter triple with five seconds left to take a 38-28 lead.
Half Number Two
First 5 Minutes: Jamont Gordon got a charge called against him in the early going, my dad is glad the refs blew the whistle on something that blatant. Oregon stayed firing with the threes, going 1-7 in this first segment. The game announcers relayed to the viewers that Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury said that if the Ducks shot 40% from long distance, the Bulldogs would not win. This struck me as odd as 40% is Oregon’s 3-point average for the season. You’re telling me if Oregon plays their “average” they can’t be beat? Rhodes continued to push with 22 points while his teammates had 12. Despite a sub-par shooting game, Hansbrough provided constant hustle with another steal converted to a layup. The Oregon Ducks were up 43-36 after the first five.
The Next 10 Minutes: The Bulldogs started out this segment like this: A forced Gordon layup miss, a Barry Stewart offensive rebound, a Jamont Gordon ill-advised 3 miss, a Charles Rhodes offensive rebound, and a Barry Stewart 3 miss. The Bulldogs were 0-12 from the 3-point line as Gordon was 2-12 from the field. Something had to give, and it just might be Jamont’s NBA chances if he leaves after this year.
Finally, at the 13 minute mark, Barry Stewart broke the cold long distance ice with a three (assisted by Gordon). The Dawgs were hanging around only down 6, 47-41. On a subsequent play, Jamont Gordon failed to contest a mid-range baseline jumper by Hairston. But Gordon was making the game happen in other areas: picking up 6 assists in a stretch from just under the 14 minute mark to just under the 9 minute mark. Mississippi State continued their push despite a couple calls not going their way leading to a 4th foul on Jarvis Varnado. The frigid shooting of the Ducks became the biggest help, with about 7.5 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs were shooting 69% for the 2nd half while the Ducks faltered with 28%. Mississippi State would head into the last 5 minutes with a 61-58 lead.
Once Oregon’s threes slowed down, they didn’t have much else in the offensive repertoire. Meanwhile, the plan for the Bulldogs was coming to fruition. Double Charles Rhodes? No problem, that just left Barry Stewart open for a three – he found the right time to rediscover his stroke. Even Jarvis Varnado kept himself in the offensive mix with a great cut to the basket which led to a composed and balanced layup – a nice display of basketball I.Q. – to give MSU a 68-61 lead with 2:15 left.
Overall, Mississippi State had more in their tank down the stretch. With more perseverance, the Dawgs outlasted the Ducks. It also didn’t hurt that Oregon made a 3 at the 19:21 mark of the 2nd half, proceeded to miss 17 in a row, then made one with 14 seconds left when the game was in the bag. In the 2nd half, the Bulldogs weren’t giving up many open looks from long distance. The final tally would have Mississippi State advancing to the 2nd round of the Big Dance with 76, sending the Ducks back to Oregon with 69 – only 1 point off of my 76-68 prediction.
- Oregon was close to their season average of 8.7 3s per game with 9 against MSU. However, their season average of attempts was 21.7, they hoisted up 38 threes on this night – 2-21 from deep in the 2nd half after going 7-17 in the1st.
- Charles Rhodes dominated with 34 and 9.
- Jamont Gordon finished 2-14 from the field and 4-8 from the FT line, but contributed with 9 assists, 11 rebounds and the “usual” 6 turnovers.
- Barry Stewart picked up the slack with 16 points on 4-8 from three point land.
Full Box Score
- “Rhodes leads MSU past Oregon” [NE Mississippi Daily Journal]
- With four media timeouts per half, the starters can withstand a lot of minutes: [Bulldog Notebook – NE Mississippi Daily Journal]
- “Rhodes loudest with a career game” [Clarion-Ledger]
- “State sticks with starters in 2nd half” [Clarion-Ledger] – On the end of Alltel Arena’s floor closest to the Mississippi State bench, teams were 11-of-24 from the 3-point line. On the end in front of the Oregon bench, teams were 2-of-31. One observer who had watched games all day said the shooting was a trend. The hot-shooting end doesn’t have an upper deck; the cold one does. “We need to play on the one end where it goes in better,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said, laughing.