*State is coming off their second ‘open' midweek date of SEC season, and the last break the Bulldogs have. The previous break didn't do the Dogs much good as they lost 69-62 at LSU when the schedule resumed. Vanderbilt is almost as rested, having last played Monday and scoring a home victory over Texas-Pan American. Both squads lost their last SEC games, on the road last Saturday; State in an upset at Auburn, and Vanderbilt at Kentucky.
*These teams did not play any common out-of-conference foes. They have played five mutual SEC opponents so far: State is 3-2 in those games, Vanderbilt 4-2 (they have played Tennessee twice already).
About the Commodores
Vanderbilt was one of the success stories of March, 2004. A Commodore team that came in riding a bubble got hot at the right time, scoring a pair of SEC Tournament wins (incuding an overtime upset of season champion Mississippi State) to slide into the NCAA Tournament. There VU stayed hot enough to reach the ‘Sweet 16' and finish at 23-10 in Kevin Stallings' fifth and by far best season in Nashville. Even with the loss of do-it-all Matt Freije, the only graduated starter, the ‘Dores figured to be a top-half East club and return to postseason play. They might yet, but a couple of loop losses—to Georgia and South Carolina—have offset a sweep of rival Tennessee and home upset of Alabama, and Vanderbilt will have to pick up the pace to keep NCAA plans realistic. The problem is a familiar one around the league, save for Kentucky; Vanderbilt struggles on the road. They've also lost a pair of home SEC games already, reducing the margin for error further. Yet this is a lineup that makes any defense anxious, able to score early and often and from all over the court…especially from the arc. Five ‘Dores are averaging three or more treys per game, and all five shoot over 40% accuracy from long range. Talk about balanced offense, only one VU player (guard Alex Gordon) has a 30-point game so far, and in just two other games has the leading scorer had 20 or more points. Everybody gets into the offensive act on this team, which is why the leading scorer averages just 12.8. That's guard Mario Moore, who MSU fans remember all too well from Atlanta last March. Stallings has mixed and matched starting lineups in SEC season with only a couple of ‘Dores taking tipoff all nine games, so don't mark the listed fivesome until gametime. But as a rule Vanderbilt comes with a tall group on the wings of 6-6 guys. And senior ‘center' Dawid Przybyszewski, beloved of play-by-play folk, spends more time around the arc than in the paint. That does make VU a tough matchup in defending the perimeter, but takes a toll on team rebounding and defense. Also, in maybe the most amazing and under-appreciated stat of 2005, Vanderbilt is not getting the breaks from league officials as usual. In fact these ‘Dores have actually been to the foul line less often than opponents—perhaps a first in modern SEC memory.
Probable Starting Lineups
Vanderbilt: G Mario Moore, 5-11 JR, 12.8ppg, 3.8apg, 50 3ptrs; G Jason Holwerda, 6-6 SR, 7.2ppg, 3.5rpg; F/C Dawid Przybyszewski, 7-2 SR, 8.1ppg, 4.0rpg, 41 3ptrs; G/F Shan Foster, 6-6 FR, 7.3ppg, 2.5rpg; 37 3ptrs; G/F Corey Smith, 6-6 SR, 11.8ppg, 4.5rpg; 33 3ptrs.
Commodore Alternates: F Julian Terrell, 6-9 JR, 6.5ppg, 4.5rpg; G Alex Gordon, 5-11 FR, 7.1ppg, 32 3ptrs; G Dan Cage, 6-5 SO, 4.8ppg, 26 3ptrs; C Ted Skuchas, 6-11 SO, 2.1ppg, 2.0rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.3ppg, 5.2apg; G Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 10.5ppg, 3.9rpg, 39 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 7.1ppg, 5.7rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 18.2ppg, 11.1rpg; F Ontario Harper, 6-5 SR, 7.6ppg, 5.1rpg.
Scoring: MSU 74.0ppg, VU 72.9ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 64.6ppg, VU 65.5ppg
Rebounding: MSU 41.2rpg, VU 33.9rpg
Rebounding Margin: MSU +8.9, VU +1.2
Shooting: MSU 45.6%, VU 48.1%
Shooting Defense: MSU 40.0%, VU 41.4%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 32.6% (131/402), VU 40.8% (229/561)
Three-Point Defense: MSU 31.0% (155/500), VU 34.4% (146/425)
This is the 110th meeting of the programs, in a series that began in 1922. Vanderbilt won the first three games and has stretched their lead to a current 69-40. A lopsided homecourt advantage (VU leads 41-8 in Nashville) is the difference in the series, and why State has so few ‘streaks' over the years. In fact, the four-game string of the last four years—including wins at Memorial Gym in 2002 and '04--was the longest for MSU, ever, only to be snapped by an overtime upset in the SEC Tournament last March. State does have a 28-21 lead in Starkville game, and Vanderbilt has not won in The Hump since 1993. Rick Stansbury is 6-3 against Vanderbilt, while Kevin Stallings is 3-4 against State.
Did You Know?
*Vanderbilt is the most-played opponent for Mississippi State in SEC Tournament records. Counting the ‘old' tournament, Bulldog teams have met Commodore clubs 11 times in league meets. VU has won seven of those games, including the last two (2000, 2004).
*VU's Dawid Przybyszewski does indeed have the longest last name in the SEC, at 13 letters. Second place belongs to South Carolina's Paulius Joneliunas.
Bulldog Game Notes
*Mississippi State has successfully defended the home court this season with nine wins at Humphrey Coliseum, four of them SEC victories. Going back to last February the Bulldogs have an eleven-game homecourt streak going. *Senior guard Winsome Frazier continues his rehabilitation from a broken foot suffered January 8 at Oxford. That game, in which Frazier played seven minutes, is State's only SEC road win so far this season. Frazier was operated on January 10, and had the cast taken off on the last day of the month. He began shooting on his own last week, and the most optimistic forecast would have Frazier in uniform for next Saturday's game at Kentucky. More probable would be a return in time for the following road game at Georgia.
*Though they have not hit the boards as well in their last five games as before Frazier's injury, Mississippi State is still on top of overall rebounding average at 41.2 boards per game, as well as in rebound margin where they rank 5th this week in the NCAA stats. MSU teams have won the last four league rebounding ‘titles' and are going for an unprecedented fifth this year.
*Senior forward Lawrence Roberts has made the mid-season cuts for both of the premier national player awards. A week after he was listed among the 30 finalists for Wooden Player of the Year, Roberts was also listed as a finalist for the Naismith POTY.
*Roberts currently leads the SEC in all-game rebound average, at 11.1 boards per game. That ranks him seventh in the NCAA standings. Roberts is second in SEC scoring at 18.4 points, trailing only Florida's Anthony Roberson (18.4). Roberts is attempting to average a ‘double-double' for a second-straight year after notching 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds as a junior.
*Senior forward Shane Power has scored 18 points in consecutive games, against Florida and Auburn, and in the process raised his scoring average to 10.5 points. Power is also the current SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
*Mississippi State has not lost consecutive games of any sort since March, 2003, when the Bulldogs fell in the finals of the SEC Tournament and the first round of the NCAA tourney. State hasn't lost back-to-back SEC games since March 1/5 of that year, though those setbacks were both on the road.
*The Bulldogs fell out of the national polls after their January 29 loss at LSU, the first time State has not been ranked this season. But they continue to garner votes in both lists after losing three of the last five games.
The Bulldogs play another home game (the only time all SEC season for consecutive home dates) by hosting LSU Wednesday night. Vanderbilt is still on a West road swing, playing at Auburn.