Bulldog Basketball Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (13-10, 5-4 SEC) completes a three-game stretch of Division play with a road trip to Auburn (8-15, 1-9 SEC). Tipoff is 6:07 for FSN telecast, and the radio broadcast is on XM199.

*Going into the weekend Mississippi State finds itself with a one-day lead on 4-5 Ole Miss for second place in the SEC West. While the Bulldogs have naturally set securing at least #2 West for the SEC Tournament bye, Alabama is now only two games in front and not out of reach with three weeks left on both schedules.

*And the Rebels and Tide will have finished their 3:00 game by the time State is in warm-ups.

*The Bulldogs were glad to see old Beard-Eaves Coliseum abandoned, after losing both 2009 and '10 trips to the old arena. Auburn has a 42-22 lead in home games in this series, and is 70-64 against State all-time including a sweep of the '09 set. This was after MSU swept in both 2007 and '08 to cap a eight-year stretch where the Bulldogs were 13-3 against Tiger teams.

*Rick Stansbury is now 15-10 against Auburn.

*Guard Dee Bost has scored 91 points in five games against the Tigers.

The Opponent: Well, at least they've avoided the ultimate indignity of a oh-fer SEC season, and thrown a big kink in South Carolina's NCAA hopes in the process. For that matter Tony Barbee's bunch has played better of late, putting up a respectable home-court contest with Tennessee and taking Georgia to double-overtime last Saturday. Whether this is because opponents know they can bring less than full-efficiency to the court and still win is worth wondering, of course. Still there are statistical signs of improvement under first-year direction, most notably how overall shooting has been going up over the last couple of weeks and turnovers have been going down. The Tigers look to use a different lineup for this second shot at State, as center Rob Chubb has been serving a two-game suspension. He's in backup duty today while juco Adrian Forbes starts in the middle. Big forward Kenny Gabriel typifies Tiger progress in SEC season and is nearing a 10-point average. But big guard Earnest Ross is still the top cat on this club, not just on the scoreboard but on the class with a laudable 6.9 rebound rate matched with 2.2 assists. Give the soph a better surrounding cast and Auburn could be making real progress. And it's worth noting that lone returning starter Tony Sullivan has been out with injury almost all season, while early-year starter Andre Malone bolted at Christmas break. All that taken into account and Barbee's bunch deserves credit for keeping up the fight in year-one…which isn't over yet. A finishing stretch of Arkansas/Ole Miss/@LSU there are opportunities for these Tigers to score another scalp or two before heading to the SEC Tournament, an early off-season, and the real start to rebuilding things for year-two.

The Last Time: The Bulldogs did what was expected on their home court, throttling the Tigers early and coasting to the easiest win of their SEC season so far. A 22-3 start assured there would be no upset. Ravern Johnson, in good graces at the time, broke out of a slump with 21 points and two treys to set the pace; while Renardo Sidney powered for 15 points. Freshman Jalen Steele also notched his first and so far only double-digit SEC outing with ten points off the bench. Auburn had four in double-figures led by starting guard Earnest Ross with 15 and sub Kenny Gabriel with 14.

Projected Starting Lineups (full-season stats):

AUBURN: F Allen Payne, FR 6-6, 6.1ppg, 3.3rpg; F Kenny Gabriel, JR 6-8, 9.6ppg, 6.0rpg; F Adrian Forbes, JR 6-8, 3.6ppg, 2.5rpg; G Earnest Ross, SO 6-5, 13.2ppg, 6.9rpg, 35 3ptrs, 51 asts; G Josh Wallace, SO 5-10, 5.6ppg, 88asts, 45 stls.

Top Reserves: C Rob Chubb, SO 6-10, 8.1ppg, 4.1rpg; G Josh Langford, FR 6-7, 5.1ppg, 4.8rpg.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, SR 6-8, 11.9ppg, 7.6rpg, 20 3ptrs; F Renardo Sidney, SO 6-10, 13.5ppg, 6.8rpg; G Dee Bost, JR 6-2, 17.2ppg, 23 3ptrs, 5.4apg; G Riley Benock, SR 6-4, 7.0ppg, 3.7rpg, 42 3ptrs; G Jalen Steele, FR 6-3, 5.1ppg, 18 3ptrs.

Top Backups: C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8, 3.7ppg, 3.8rpg, 23blks; G Brian Bryant, JR 6-2, 5.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.8asts.

HOW THEY COMPARE (SEC only stats):

Scoring: MSU 67.3, AUB 60.4

Scoring Defense: MSU 69.3, AUB 69.4

FG Shooting: MSU 43.8%, AUB 37.5%

FG Defense: MSU 40.9%, AUB 44.1%

3-Point Shooting: MSU 33.2%, AUB 30.8%

3-point Attempts PG: MSU 21.1, AUB 14.4

Rebounding: MSU 35.3, AUB 35.0

Rebound Margin: MSU -3.4, AUB -3.6

Free Throw Shooting: MSU 71.8%, AUB 58.8%

Turnovers: MSU 14.4, AUB 13.2

BULLDOG NOTES: Mississippi State's SEC fortunes have swung with the shooting. In their five wins the Bulldogs have shot 47.0% overall and 38.1% at the arc. In the four losses the accuracy is just 40.2% and 28.0%.

*For the first three weeks of SEC season the Bulldog bench was only providing about 13% of scoring. In the last two wins though backups have contributed almost 22% of the points.

*In the last four games the Dogs have shot 78% on free throws.

*State has yet to record more steals than a SEC opponent through nine games.

*G Dee Bost is definitely playing up to pre-season All-SEC forecasts, having led State in scoring six of nine conference games. For that matter his performance so far ought to put the junior in all-American consideration.

*Bost has played 36 minutes in both the last two SEC wins despite a painful Achilles. It showed in his 2-of-11 shooting at LSU, but he shrugged off the pain to hurt Arkansas with 7-of-12 accuracy and four longballs.

*His first trey Wednesday night made Bost the 33rd member of the MSU 1,000-Point Club. He has 1,015 points after 81 career games.

*Those four treys against Arkansas give Bost 147 in his three seasons, making him #9 on the MSU chart. He needs 160 for the next rung on the trey ladder.

*Bost has accounted for 37% of State's treys in SEC play.

*But not at the cost of distributing, since Bost has 49 assists against 23 threes in the same span. Bost now has 393 career assists and needs 413 for top-five status.

*He also is closing in on top-ten in steals with 116, needing 127 to make the list.

*Bost has not fouled-out since the 2009-10 season opener, 44 games ago.

*C/F Renard Sidney has put together consecutive double-doubles in the last two victories. And he has scored double-digits in nine of his 11 college games so far.

*Sidney has averaged 16.6 points in State's conference wins; only 8.5 in losses.

*In SEC wins, Sidney has shot 32-of-60 from the floor. In the losses he is 13-of-31.

*Regardless of outcome though Sidney is reliable at the line. He is 25-of-34 on SEC free throws.

*Here's an odd one: Sidney averages 21.5 minutes in home SEC games, 29.5 minutes on the road!

*Sidney has tried just six treys in the last six games and missed them all.

*A two-game suspension, so far, has left G/F Ravern Johnson stuck at 230 career treys and in third on the career list. He needs 258 for second place.

*Maybe he can take advantage of the forced break, since in the first seven SEC games he was on the court for 265 of the possible 280 minutes.

*Before suspension Johnson had a five-game streak of double-digit scoring. Still his 13.1-point average for SEC play is well behind the 20.1 he scored in non-conference games.

*And Johnson is still seeking the old outside shooting touch, making just 26.1% on trey tries in SEC action. But when he moves closer to the goal Johnson is a 49% marksman.

*Johnson broke into the 1,000 Point Club on opening night of this season. Since then he's bolted up to 14th on the list with 1,321 points, with former teammate Jarvis Varnado (1,403, 2007-10) coming up next.

*A practice injury the evening before kept G Riley Benock from taking any shots in the Arkansas game. But he was 4-of-4 at the free throw line. Those were his first trips to the stripe in a calendar month.

*The previous game at LSU, Benock was 4-of-5 at the arc.

*His 42 treys this season so far are exactly double the most longballs of any previous season, 21 as a sophomore.

*Benock had a SEC-season best four assists at LSU; then came back with a league-best 3 steals against Arkansas.

*F Kodi Augustus shot exactly 50% in a four-game stretch, before going 1-of-6 against Arkansas.

*But he fell only a bucket short of extending a double-digit scoring streak, which stopped at four games.

*Augustus is having a career year at the foul line, making 81.7% of attempts.

*In the last three games Augustus is 13-of-13 at the stripe.

*In his first seven SEC games, G Brian Bryant scored just seven points. He's had 13 in the last two wins including nine against Arkansas.

*C Wendell Lewis also came alive this week, scoring eight against Arkansas on 4-of-5 shooting. He'd mustered just three total points in the previous three games.

*Lewis has made only one SEC free throw.

*G Jalen Steele has taken advantage of his first two college starts, in place of Johnson, to score four and five points with a trey each game. But he has shot just 2-of-12 overall in the process.

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