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Posts Tagged ‘ben hansbrough’

Another bag of Charles Rhodes please – Miss. State looks to continue NCAA survival

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 23, 2008

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.

Last Five:
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.

Stat Check:

  • 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

Other Reading:

  • “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.

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Posted in charles rhodes, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, ncaa tournament, oregon ducks, sec basketball, SEC Sports | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

In One Night, Miss. State Survives Buzzer Beater, Tornado and Free Throw Demons

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 15, 2008

Last night’s game against the Alabama Crimson Tide started well enough for the Mississippi State Bulldogs: an alley-oop to Jamont Gordon on the very first play. The Bulldogs having their way in the paint against the non-existent Alabama defense led to a Mark Gottfried timeout 48 seconds into the match. The Bulldogs eventually got a 10-0 lead within the first three minutes.

But when MSU started getting sloppy, resulting from a couple undisciplined efforts on defense and several ill-advised shots, the Crimson Tide would go on a run to tie the game at 27. Bama’s streak would continue until they had a nine point lead at 36-27. During that stretch, Mississippi State put down their brushes and halted work in the paint. Instead, they opted to launch nine three pointers, missing all except one. Who made the one? Big man Charles Rhodes of course.

The Bulldog zone aided the most in Alabama’s foray into the game. Alternatively, the Tide went 8-14 from long distance as the Bulldogs waited until around the five minute mark to test their man defense. Oh, and don’t forget points off turnovers, Alabama had 15 in the first half as they led 36-29 at intermission. The only thing that didn’t really hamper the Bulldogs was free throw shooting; they went 8-10 from the line.

The beginning of the second half did not show much promise as the Miss. State scored four points, committed three turnovers and missed five shots (including three 3-pointers) in the first six minutes. It was hard to imagine that the same team which scored 10 points in the first 2:23 would only score 23 points in the next 23:48. The Mississippi State zone offense has long been one of the weaker points of Coach Stansbury’s repertoire. It usually involves dribbling and passing the ball around the horn as the shot clock runs down, the end result being the chance of a long distance shot.

But someone, something, cracked open the door of emotion for the Bulldogs….if just a little bit. The M-State team fought their way back to a three point deficit, down 46-43 with 11 minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, I’m one who focuses more on the negative……such as Jamont Gordon’s pocket defense (I know that Rick Stansbury teaches his kids to hand-carry the ball and to do away with hands in holsters); the abundance of Alabama offensive rebounds (they had nine in the second half); and the zero confidence of Barry Stewart. I’ve issued another amber alert on the sophomore, a previous member of the SEC All-Freshman team.

And then, Jamont Gordon does something so amazing on offense, that we have no choice but to gasp and put aside his transgressions. With about 1:20 left in the game, Gordon, aka The Ice Cream Man, charged up the court, gave a nasty cross-over (looked like the defender was leaning in the wrong direction) and did his impersonation of a train going down the lane with a huge left-handed dunk, which put Mississippi State up 58-56.

But those holsters then got stuck as the Bulldogs shot themselves in the foot at the O.K. Corral. If Barry Stewart, the team’s starting 2-guard who is supposed to be a shooter, makes both of his free-throws with 7 seconds left, you could forget all about the text below. Barry didn’t. He missed his second attempt from the charity stripe leaving MSU with only a 3 point lead.

Ultimately, Alabama was left taking the ball out of bounds on their end with two seconds left in the game. Mistake #1: Arguable. Mississippi State did not put a man on the inbounds passer. Yes, I understand wanting to avoid a lob pass with an extra rover, but two seconds is a lot of time. I’d rather prevent the “easy” pass. Mistake #2: Huge. Mississippi State, at least two fouls away from putting Alabama in the double bonus, did not foul the man on the floor. Thank you Ben Hansbrough. You’ve no doubt seen the highlights of the Mykal Riley 3-pointer, sending the game into overtime. And perhaps you’ve seen the footage of an incensed Stansbury who told his team to foul.

Surprise! A tornado. With 2:11 left in the overtime period, Mississippi State held onto a three point lead as they fouled Alabama’s Alonzo Gee on the floor; the winds in the Georgia Dome began to blow. At first, I thought the players were looking up at the jumbotron to see a replay of the foul. As the cameras panned to the swaying suspended metal structures, I knew the situation was a scary one. The players, the coaches, and their families cleared the court as those in attendance were advised to stay inside the Georgia Dome to safely wait out the storm. Read the report from Kyle Veazy’s blog on the Clarion-Ledger.

A lengthy delay made everyone wonder about the next course of action. The final 2:11 resumed well past 10:30 pm est. Remember that foul on Alonzo Gee? Must’ve been the hardest front end of a 1-and-1 ever…..after a 63 minute delay and a 10 minute warm-up, he missed.

The play of the game came when Ben Hansbrough missed a 3-pointer. Jamont Gordon, who had impressed me with his muscle on the offensive glass, got the strong rebound and put-back, giving MSU a five point lead, 66-61 with 52 seconds left. A resilient Bama hung around. Richard Hendrix was allowed to get not one, but two offensive put-back dunks. Gordon simply neglected to box him out on one occasion. In the end, fate was in the hands of the younger Hansbrough brother.

Poor Ben Hansbrough. One Shining Moment wasn’t playing in the locker room for him last night. He played a gutty game with 8 points, 2 assists, 6 rebounds and only 1 turnover; a great stat line. Unfortunately, he was cold from the field, taking all eight of his shots from beyond the arc and making only two. He failed to commit the foul at the end of regulation, but not forgetting Stewart’s missed FT.

Seven seconds left, Mississippi State up by a deuce and Ben Hansbrough at the line with a chance for redemption. A white guy missing both free-throws? Seems like a tornado just hit the dome of my basketball mentality. With Alabama down a bucket, this gave Mykal Riley another chance to be a hero; twice in one day…that guy’s lucky. But a 3-point miss that went 20% in then 100% out, perhaps moved by dissipating winds, would swing the luck back in the Bulldogs direction.

Final Score: Mississippi State 69, Alabama 67

An Interview: with the Tornado

AP Photos: from Gregg Ellis – Inside Mississippi State Sports blog

The Game Story: Clarion-Ledger

The Tornado Story: Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Wrap-Up: Post game notes and interviews from secsports.com

Posted in alabama crimson tide, Bulldog Basketball, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, sec basketball, SEC Sports, sec tournament | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Profiling the Field: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 10, 2008

Mississippi State
21-9 (12-4 SEC West Champions)
RPI: 37-39
Seed:
6-9

The Growth of a Seed
ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi is currently projecting the Bulldogs to be a falling 7 seed, after being a rising 6 seed last week. The March 10th edition of Projecting the Seed on CBS Sportsline also has Mississippi State as a 7 seed. Seeding can clearly rise and fall with conference tournament performance. Today, I’ll put the Bulldogs down as a 7 seed as well. With their strength of schedule at 50 and an SEC West title in the trophy case, the Bulldogs are a lock to make the NCAA tournament, even though they are only 3-7 against top 50 RPI teams.

Mississippi State has a bye in the first round of the SEC tournament and is set to play the winner of the Alabama/Florida game on Friday, March 14th at 7:30 pm. If the Bulldogs win one, or even two, in the SEC tournament (after the Crimson Tide/Gators, MSU is on the Kentucky vs. Georgia/Ole Miss side of the bracket), I think they have a solid chance of being a 6 seed. If the Bulldogs lose to Florida in the second round, they might have a chance of staying a 7 seed in the Big Dance. But if it’s a loss to lowly Alabama, they could drop to 8 or 9.

Wins That Count
Well, all of them count….but wins at home against Kentucky, Ole Miss and Arkansas stand out. The selection committee will no doubt most notice Mississippi State’s 12-4 conference record. Yes, it’s a down year for the SEC, currently ranked 4th in conference RPI, but that should not take away from a division championship in a traditionally strong conference.

Losses That Hurt
Seven of Mississippi State’s nine losses have come to RPI top 50 teams….so, no bad ones there. Although, blowing a game at South Alabama with a 13 point lead and 10:25 left in the 2nd half should never be considered “okay.” State’s two worst losses have come at the hands of Southern Illinois and Miami Ohio (#61 and #81 in RPI respectively) during the Anaheim Classic back in late November; the Bulldogs have obviously improved since. Southern Illinois bowed out in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, their 17-14 record only leaving them with faint NIT hopes. [Epic Carnival has officially popped the SIU bubble] Miami OH, ranked 5th in the Mid-American Conference, still has a chance to dance as their conference tournament starts Wednesday. In any case, dropping two games to “mid-major” Mid-Majors is a blemish, albeit minor, on the Mississippi State résumé. The NCAA tournament selection committee will note that there are no true “bad” losses (to a 100+ RPI team) for this Bulldog squad.

Players to Eyeball

Mississippi State has plenty players of note. Ben Hansbrough, the sophomore and younger brother of North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, has helped push the Bulldogs to the next level after he missed SEC games 5 through 7 due to injury/sickness, two of those games being back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Tennessee.

Rail-thin sophomore Jarvis Varnado led the NCAA in blocked shots with 4.8 per game. On the season, Jarvis had three 10 block games and 16 total games with 5 or more blocks.

Junior Jamont Gordon gets a lot of attention. He’s even one of the 24 finalists for the 2008 John Wooden Award. He is capable of dominating every aspect of a game, as he averaged 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists on the year.

The key to Bulldog success? Senior Charles Rhodes. The agile big men can lead his team to tournament victories if he is able to effectively establish himself in the paint on offense early in games. I am looking for him to improve on his season averages of 16.8 points and 7.7 rebounds as Mississippi State charges into the post season.

Strengths
A Rick Stansbury team traditionally means tough defense and rebounding, and this season’s campaign is no exception. Let’s go through some numbers:

  • The Bulldogs led the SEC in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average of 65 points per game.
  • MSU was first in the SEC in field goal percentage defense, opponents shot .369 on the year (MSU was second to Tennessee in 3-point FG% defense at .316).
  • The Dawgs were first in the SEC in rebounding offense, 40.9 per game (second in rebounding margin at +5.1).
  • Mississippi State was first in the SEC in shot blocking averaging 8.10 per game (second place LSU averaged 6.5 per game).

So as you can see, with the nation’s leading shot blocker, Jarvis Varnado AKA “Swat” patrolling the paint, Mississippi State is capable of locking down very good teams. Statistics point to the Bulldogs having one of the top 10 defenses in the nation.

Weaknesses
Free throws and turnovers, another tradition of Rick Stansbury teams. This season, Mississippi State is second worst in the SEC at the charity stripe shooting 63.5% (good for 313th in the nation). It’s no surprise that in their nine losses, the Bulldogs have been even worse at the line, making 58.8% of their FT attempts. In fact, we should stop using Mississippi State and free-throws in same sentence all together. Let’s just refer to them as “Line Challenges.”

Freebies: The Bulldogs have accomplished a 12-4 conference record despite their penchant for something else “free” – giving the ball away….turnovers. M-State has averaged 15.5 turnovers per game on the year (99th worst in NCAA DI), good enough for the second worst turnover margin in the SEC, along with the 10th “best” assist/turnover ratio in the conference. Of the 465 turnovers committed by the Bulldogs on the season, the team’s star players, Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes, are responsible for close to 40%. Gordon, the team’s starting point guard, came through with 121 turnovers of his own, compared to his 143 assists…..good thing he’s 3rd in the SEC in dimes I suppose. There are 12 NCAA Division I players who have committed more turnovers than Gordon this season.

Prediction
Rick Stansbury, for all the accolades he’s garnered in his 10 year career as head coach at Mississippi State University: 206 wins (most in school history), a .646 winning percentage, 4 NCAA tournament appearances and 4 SEC West titles; Stansbury has yet to lead his team to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. This will be the year that he succeeds. Given that the Bulldogs don’t face some incredible dominating post player or an exceptional 3 point shooting team in the first two rounds (the latter happening has a much higher chance, especially when dealing with a possible mid-major 8, 9 or 10 seed), their chances of willing themselves into the round of 16 are high. Some believe that the Mississippi State Bulldogs even have Final Four potential. Hey, if the two superstars get on a roll, the sky is the limit, or, at least breathing the early April air in San Antonio.

Posted in Bulldog Basketball, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, ncaa tournament, sec basketball | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Big Game For The Bulldogs, Those Florida Gators

Posted by Kyle Weidie on March 1, 2008

Well, I’ve been out of the country for the past couple of weeks and in the process, missed 3 and 1/2 Mississippi State Bulldog games. I say 3.5 because I was able to catch the first half of the Arkansas game in the airport before I left. I’d say that a 3-1 record is not bad in my absence.

W VS. ARKANSAS
First Half observations: Ravern Johnson is going to be a helluva ball player….evident by the nice dunk he had at the 12:30 mark. Charles Rhodes is an agile big man, with very nice footwork, who has skills which just might translate to the next level, but he will need a good NCAA tournament a la Antonio McDyess for Alabama years ago to really get noticed by NBA scouts. Patrick Beverley made Ben Hansbrough look pretty silly on defense….then again, Beverley is good and Hansbrough is white. The Bulldogs built a 13 point halftime lead despite the usual Jekyll and Hyde act from Jamont Gordon. As for the second half, I caught an update from my father over the phone on my layover in Atlanta….and from the first 60 or so seconds of our conversation, I was under the impression that the Dawgs blew it and lost — only later to get that “a win is a win” relief in finding out that MSU prevailed over Arkansas 80-74 thanks to the strong effort by Charles Rhodes and no thanks to a horrible effort by Jamont Gordon. [game photos from the Clarion-Ledger]

L @ OLE MISS
I initially predicted that the Bulldogs would beat an overrated Rebel squad up in Oxford. They didn’t. Oh well, you can always throw records and theories out in rivalry games such as this. From what I read overseas, it looked like the Dawgs got off to a hot start and were well on their way to routing Ole Miss as they did in Starkville. From the light-hearted nature of the team leaders after the game, maybe they expected to lose. In the end, not being able to stop a freshman point guard (Chris Warren has 22 for OM — not sure who was guarding him) and allowing Dwayne Curtis to dominate the boards with 16 (8 offense) will easily lead to a 74-63 loss to Ole Miss for the MSU Bulldogs, despite Jamont Gordon “limiting” himself to only 4 turnovers.

W (in OT) @ SOUTH CAROLINA
I didn’t read anything about this game except for an email from one of my contacts which pretty much sums it up: I don’t care that we beat USC in OT. Very lucky. Coaching is terrible. Gordon runs wild. Points off turnovers – 26-5 Carolina.” I’ll just go with that “A Win Is A Win” thing again, especially on the road in the SEC. And at least young Ben Hansbrough came through big time in the clutch. Of course, if you go read the Clarion-Ledger or the official MSU site, they will paint the game as pretty picture and a great win. But the fact is that South Carolina is terrible. Right now, they are 12-15 overall and 4-9 in the SEC….a Bulldog team that wants to make noise in the NCAA tournament would have cleaned their clock.

W VS. AUBURN
Auburn is bad too. The Dawgs made them look like a D2 team on the Plains with an 83-64 win back on February 9th. I had a pretty intensive break-down of that Mississippi State-Auburn game on this blog. There was no reason to think that the Dawgs wouldn’t win this one at home on February 27th….they did, 89-78, clinching at least a tie of the SEC West crown. And look! — the team only had 12 total turnovers….Jamont came through with 6 of those 12.

Today’s Game @ The Florida Gators
Here’s where the Mississippi State Bulldogs stand: with a 19-8 overall record and a 10-3 SEC record (and a 41 RPI), the Bulldogs are pretty much a cinch for the NCAA tournament. I think I heard on ESPN this morning that only two SEC teams with 10 conference wins have ever been left out the big tourney (they were talking about Kentucky), but that’s when they played 18 conference games instead of 16. ESPN Bracketology currently has the Dawgs as an 8 seed playing UNLV in Little Rock. Forget playing for the SEC West title, forget playing for higher seeding in the NCAA, forget playing for a chance at the overall, and outright, SEC title……the Bulldogs need to win this one to gain momentum and confidence as a team heading into the SEC conference tournament and the Big Dance. I’ll be heading over to the Crystal City Sports Pub in Alexandria, VA to watch the game and will get an analysis of the game in a subsequent post.

GO DAWGS!

Posted in arkansas razorbacks, auburn tigers, florida gators, mississippi state bulldogs, ncaa basketball, ole miss rebels, sec basketball, SEC Sports, south carolina gamecocks | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Segmenting The Game: Mississippi State at Auburn

Posted by Kyle Weidie on February 12, 2008

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.

1st Half

Segment 1
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

Segment 2
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

Segment 3
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

Segment 4
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.

2nd Half

Segment 5
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

Segment 6
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

Segment 7
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

Segment 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.

Good Links:
Box Score from M-State Athletics
Box from ESPN.com
Clarion-Ledger Game Story

Up Next: A big home rematch against Arkansas on Saturday.

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