*This meeting matches the SEC ‘leaders' in a pair of dubious categories. The Tigers and Bulldogs rank, respectively, 11th and 12th in the conference in both made three-pointers and in turnover margin. Fans sitting near courtside should be alert for errant jumpshots and passes at any point.
*The respective head coaches both broke into the SEC as assistants at Mississippi State. LSU's John Brady was hired by Bob Boyd in 1983 and stayed on Coach Richard Williams' staff through 1990. That was the year that Rick Stansbury was hired by Williams, who he assisted until taking over as head coach in 1998.
ABOUT THE TIGERS: Some likely thought John Brady crazy for setting his pre-conference schedule. Why, after losing star forward Brandon Bass and backcourt veterans, pit one of the youngest rosters in the land against a lineup of ranked opposition and conference contenders? Maybe the coach was asking the same thing himself after going 8-5 with losses to Houston, Cincinnati, Ohio State, and Connecticut. But this harsh baptism of D-I fire might have been the ideal way to prepare Brady's ninth Tiger team. Certainly it should have been a warning to the rest of the SEC that LSU's five losses came by a combined 11 points, which points to the sheer precociousness of his rebuilt lineup. The kids survived their initiations and have handled the first two league matchups nicely. Three Tigers rank among the SEC's top-ten shooters and top-15 scorers, while the team is so far ahead of everyone in rebounding they might as well be in another league—a pro league. LSU's rebounding margin is greater than the next four-best SEC teams combined, and for good measure this team paces the conference in shot-blocking with 7.13 swats a night. It's no coincidence, of course: the bottom line for this club is the front line. Call him ‘Big Baby' or ‘Baby Shaq' but Glen Davis is due a grown-ups name by now. The monster middle-man notched 13.5 points and 8.8 boards as a freshman complementing Bass. Now he's putting up 18 points and almost ten boards and is the big cat on this club, with a combination of muscle and moves that just can't be contained, much less stopped. Davis goes into Wednesday first in SEC scoring, a tenth of a point in front of Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer; and tied for second in rebounding. His stats would be even better if not for his new helpers. Junior Darnell Lazare has nine starts at forward but he's being quickly surpassed by LSU's latest rookie phenom. Tyrus Thomas already looks like a lock for SEC Freshman of the Year averaging a double-double, actually getting more boards right now than Davis with a SEC-best 10.1 and more than doubling his big partner with 49 blocked shots. And he hits 63.8% from the floor, compared to 52% for Davis. 6-7 rookie Tasmin Mitchell rounds out the new starting group getting whatever points and boards they don't, with Lazare always available. And they're all underclassmen…though one has to wonder if Davis will be back or, for that matter, Thomas. The offense would be built around the front line anyway, but it's even more the case since the loss of Tack Minor took depth and even more experience from the guard corps, and pushed another frosh into primary duty. Hometown kid Garrett Temple has been up to the demands though, putting in almost 30 minutes while doing something of everything. Fortunately for LSU there's a senior shooter helping out, as Darrell Mitchell is the top Tiger on the perimeter with 32 of his team's 52 treys. His 17.0 scoring average ranks third in the league this week, as Mitchell hits 41% from the arc while also leading the team in steals as well while playing 35 minutes. Another rookie, Ben Voogd, spells one of the starting guards as needed, but Brady just doesn't use what bench he has too much anyway. Only 11 Tigers have played all year and here in January the ‘rotation' is essentially about 7-1/2 guys. If they're getting tired it doesn't show in the numbers, where LSU ranks second in SEC shooting and shooting-defense, third in scoring, and seventh in scoring defense. And the Tigers are surely glad to be playing only league teams now.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
L.S.U.: G Garrett Temple, FR, 6-5 180, 4.5ppg, 3.1rpg; G Darrel Mitchell, SR, 5-11 178, 17.0ppg, 4.7apg, 32 3ptrs; C Glen Davis, SO, 6-9 310, 18.0ppg, 9.7rpg, F Tyrus Thomas, FR, 6-9 215, 13.9ppg, 10.1rpg, 49 blks; F Tasmin Mitchell, FR, 6-7 236, 11.8ppg, 6.2rpg.
Top Reserves: F Darnell Lazare, JR, 6-8 240, 8.3ppg, 4.3rpg; G Ben Voogd, FR, 6-1 170, 1.7ppg, 1.1 rpg; F Magnum Rolle, FR, 6-10 200, 1.8ppg, 2.5rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: G Reginald Delk, FR, 6-4 170, 8.6ppg, 2.1rpg, 26 3ptrs; G Dietric Slater, JR, 6-3 200, 10.3ppg, 3.7rpg; C Wesley Morgan, SR, 7-2 240, 5.5ppg, 7.3rpg, 26 blks; PF Charles Rhodes, SO 6-8 240, 11.1ppg, 6.2rpg; G/F Jamont Gordon, FR, 6-4 225, 13.4ppg, 6.1rpg, 14 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: G Jamall Edmondson, SR, 5-9 190, 13.7ppg, 2.3apg, 24 2ptrs; G Richard Delk, FR, 6-4 170, 2.9ppg, 1.4apg; PF Piotr Stelmach, JR, 6-9 240, 5.8ppg, 4.3rpg.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Average Points: MSU 70.6ppg, LSU 78.1ppg
Scoring Margin: MSU +3.8, LSU +14.0
Field Goal %: MSU 45.9%, LSU 48.8%
Field Goal Defense: MSU 38.7%, LSU 38.9%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 31.4% (86/274), LSU 298.7% (52/175)
Rebounding Average: MSU 40.3rpg, LSU 44.9rpg
Rebounds Margin: MSU +5.3, LSU +15.1
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 65.5%, LSU 66.7%
Average Turnovers: MSU 18.2, LSU 17.0
Turnover Margin: MSU –2.9, LSU –1.6
THE SERIES: This is Mississippi State's second most-played rivalry, but also the oldest. It dates back to 1908-09, the first year of MSU basketball, and it's been a good series for both schools. LSU holds a 99-88 lead after almost a century. The Tigers added two wins to their total by sweeping last season's pair, and snapping a four-game streak for the Bulldogs. LSU has twice strung together seven-straight wins, from 1952-55 and again in 1968-71. State has the longest streak, though, with 11-straight wins from 1994-1999. The Bulldogs hold a 54-34 lead in Starkville games. Rick Stansbury is 9-7 against LSU, with two of those wins in SEC Tournaments. John Brady is 7-11 against the school he once worked at.
BULLDOG NOTES: In 16 games Mississippi State has started six different lineups. At both Florida and Mississippi the tipoff team had SF Jamont Gordon opening at point guard in place of the gimpy Richard Delk, and Dietric Slater at 2G. No starting unit has opened more than four-straight this season, that at the start of the year. Gordon and C Wesley Morgan are the only Dogs to start every game so far.
*Senior guard Jamall Edmondson saw his first action since December 21 this past Saturday, getting 22 minutes against Ole Miss and scoring five points. That dropped his season average to 13.7 points, but he is still the team scoring leader. In the interim Edmondson has lost his lead in treys made, as freshman guard Reginald Delk now has 28 to the senior's 24.
*Gordon has scored double-digits his last five games and 13 times this season. He is second among SEC freshmen in scoring average, trailing only LSU's Tyrus Thomas. Halfway into this debut season Gordon's play is prompting records research. At 13.4 points he is on a pace to be the first freshman perimeter player (guard or small forward) to average double-digits since Jeff Malone scored 11.9 points in 1979-80. The MSU record for freshman guard scoring was set by Ray White in 1975-76 at 18.3 points. And the record for all freshman was the 19.3 by center Rickey Brown in 1976-77.
*Sophomore PF Charles Rhodes had a string of three-straight games with nine rebounds end when he snared just five boards at Oxford. Still Rhodes has a season average of 6.2. More impressively, he has scored 64 points in the last four games (a 16.0 average) and raised his season figure to 11.1. In his last three games Rhodes is 22-of-37 from the floor, 59.4%.
*Rhodes also bounced back from a mini-slump at the foul line. After going 5-of-10 over two games he was 6-of-8 at Oxford. Rhodes began his soph season hitting 36 of his first 42 attempts, almost 86%. He's now at 77%, still best among all Bulldog regulars.
*Senior center Wesley Morgan blocked four shots at Oxford, raising his season tally to 26 in 16 games. That just pushed Morgan into a tie for 10th in the SEC stats. *In five of the last six years State's leading swatter had notched between 20 and 32 blocks; Branden Vincent was the exception with 40 in 2004-05. Whole MSU teams lately have failed to match the record 109 blocks by Erick Dampier in 1996.
*After consecutive wins giving up under 70 points, the Bulldogs have been beaten their last two times out by allowing 75 points each contest.
*State's chances of running their SEC record of five-straight seasons as league rebounding champions are fading fast. These Bulldogs still rank second in SEC rebound margin at +5.3, but that's a long, long way behind LSU. The Tigers are beating foes on the boards by a whopping +15.1 margin.
*With such a young team and new lineup, career stats are modest at most for this squad. Edmondson is the lone veteran with more than 300 points (316), while junior Slater has the next-most points on the roster at 254. Not surprisingly State players, following the decade-long trend, are better on the boards. Morgan (188), Slater (124), Rhodes (123), and Stelmach (106) are all into triple digits now.
*The Bulldogs do indeed rank last in the SEC in both turnover margin and assist/turnover ratio. Only once this season has State been credited with more assists than turnovers, that in the overtime win against Santa Clara. But they got closer to breaking even Saturday with 17 turnovers against 13 assists.
*Last year's MSU team averaged 14.8 turnovers for the whole season, 15.2 in the SEC season. The current Dogs average 18.2 giveaways.