Dogs Are Smaller, But Still Bite, Lebo Says

A preview of Rick Stansbury's Mississippi State Bulldogs as the Tigers travel to Starkville.

Auburn, Ala.--Coming off its first win over a Top 25 team since 2004, the Auburn Tigers are looking to break another streak at 2 p.m. on Saturday as they go for their first win over Mississippi State in Starkville since 2000.

Jeff Lebo's squad is 12-7 overall and 2-2 in SEC play while the Bulldogs are 10-6 and 1-2.

"It'd be nice for this team to be able to get one on the road," Lebo notes. "We haven't played a lot of road games. To me, the good teams find a way to win on the road--to steal one, two or three on the road.

With a recent history of great post players like Mario Austin and Lawrence Roberts, the Tigers haven't outrebounded Mississippi State in the last 11 games in the series.

"They're different than the Mississippi State teams in the past because they don't have great size this year," Lebo says. "They're really playing a smaller lineup. It's different for us to prepare for because Rick (Stansbury) has really good job of taking his personnel and adjusting to what he has done in the past."

Coach Jeff Lebo

Even though they're smaller overall this year than in the past, the Tigers must contend with 6-8, 240-pound Charles Rhodes, who gave Korvotney Barber and Josh Dollard fits last season. He had 21 points and 19 rebounds in State's 71-53 victory in Starkville last season and 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 75-71 Tiger victory in Auburn.

"Oh he's a man," Lebo explains. "He's long, he's strong, athletic, he can shoot jumpers, he rebounds, he's tough and he blocks shots. He's one of the best power forwards in this league. In our game over there last year he dominated us in every aspect of the game. He's a talented power forward."

The team's leading scorer this season is Jamont Gordon, who had 29 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists in two games against the Tigers last season. The Oak Hill Academy product also had 10 turnovers in the loss at Auburn.

"They're playing with a smaller lineup and they move Gordon around to different positions," Lebo says. "He's a tough guy to defend. They play him at the power forward and they also play him at the point guard. It's very similar to a Dane Bradshaw at Tennessee."

Jamont Gordon

The Bulldogs have three other contributors with a familiar last names. Richard Delk and Reginald Delk, both 6-4, 175-pound sophomore starting guards, are nephews of former Kentucky star Tony Delk. They are averaging 7.4 points per game and 9.6, respectively.

Ben Hansbrough leads the team in three-point shooting by sinking 22-43 on the year. He's the younger brother of North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough. Also filling it up from behind the arc is freshman Barry Stewart, who is scoring 11.5 per game.

"He's an excellent three-point shooter," Lebo notes. "They get you spread out a little bit, they're athletic enough to beat you off the dribble when you get spread out. They're also good enough shooting the basketball that you have to come out and defend them."


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