M&F Bank Basketball Scouting Report

THE GAME: Mississippi State (11-9, 2-5 SEC) opens the February portion of the SEC schedule at home, hosting Louisiana State (13-8, 2-5). Game time at Humphrey Coliseum is 4:00 with telecast by Fox Sports Net. The radio broadcast is heard on the 30-station Bulldog Basketball network.

*The winner will complete the first half of SEC season no worse than fifth in the Western Division, while the loser will occupy last place. State is 2-1 in Division play, LSU is 2-3.

*Mississippi State has lost consecutive home games to the Tigers, in 2005 and '06. Before that, the only SEC West squad to win on two-straight trips to Humphrey Coliseum against Stansbury teams was Arkansas in 1999 and 2000. Stansbury teams are 49-19 in SEC home games.

*Under Stansbury, State teams have posted a winning record, 32-27, in February games. They are now 33-36 in January games.

About the Tigers: How the mighty have, well, not fallen but certainly slipped. A four-game losing streak, including a pair of homecourt setbacks, has tumbled the Tigers from both the forefront of the Division race and the national rankings. While only the most optimistic expected this LSU squad to perform anything like the cats who won the West and got white-hot last March in a run to the Final Four, enough returned from that lineup clearly to contend for a conference crown. It's not working out that way for John Brady's bunch; or not at the moment. There's the type of talent and experience here to play with anyone on any night. The trick will be getting LSU to play sufficiently well for enough remaining nights to get back into the post-season picture. Any lineup built around Glen Davis obviously has a chance to win. The big boy is trying to carry both his own load and fill some of the void left by Tyrus Thomas. The numbers are excellent as Davis began the week second in SEC scoring and a runaway first in rebounding. Jibes about ‘big baby' don't fit now as he's shed sufficient bulk to put in the third-most minutes of any SEC player and not show much strain. Without the fabulous frontcourt partner of last year Davis is working harder for his points and shooting under 50%, yet he's connecting on 70% of free throws. And he gets plenty of opportunities to do damage at the stripe, drawing fouls going for all those rebounds and putbacks. As you'd expect this is a bunch of beasts on the boards with veteran forwards Tasmin Mitchell and Darnell Lazare both crashing the glass. In fact it takes a brave soul and stout body to enter the paint filled by this hefty trio. Soph Mitchell is the #2 scoring option here getting nearly 14 per game, and not just inside because he can step outside to hit the three-ball as well. That's not really the ‘strong' point of this squad though as LSU has the fewest treys-made in the league. Then again guards Garrett Temple and Terry Martin are almost equal in total threes so there's not really a go-to gunner to scheme against. Temple does a good job taking care of and distributing the ball, ranking 9th in SEC assists. Something else here: while no Tiger is in the top-ten in foul shooting, the team as a whole is best in the SEC. And if they don't make a lot of longballs, LSU doesn't give up many either. In fact defense is job-one for these Bengals. How else can the 11th-rated offense in the league (and 10th team in shooting accuracy) still have the third-best scoring margin in the SEC? Still, lack of pure firepower is what comes back to bite LSU in the late going. So does almost no depth; the departure of guard Tack Martin this week leaves essentially seven Tigers to take care of 40 minutes.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Louisiana State: F Darnell Lazare, SR 6-8 228, 6.6ppg, 4.1rpg; F Tasmin Mitchell, SO 6-7 224, 13.8ppg, 6.4rpg, 27 3ptrs; C Glen Davis, JR 6-9 285, 18.0ppg, 10.3rpg, 24 blks, 11 3ptrs; G Terry Martin, SO 6-6 196, 10.5ppg, 2.2rpg, 32 3ptrs; G Garrett Temple, SO 6-5 190, 9.0ppg, 3.2rpg, 4.0apg, 29 3ptrs.

Top Backups: G/F Dameon Mason, JR 6-6 183, 6.2ppg, 3.1rpg, 9 3ptrs; F Magnum Rolle, SO 6-10 205, 3.6ppg, 4.6rpg.

Mississippi State: F Richard Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 6.6ppg, 2.5rpg, 21 3ptrs; C Vernon Goodridge, JR, 6-9 225, 3.0ppg, 3.8rpg, 27 blks; C Charles Rhodes, JR, 6-8 240, 12.1ppg, 6.2rpg, 28 blks; G Reginald Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 9.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 33 3ptrs; G Jamont Gordon, SO, 6-4 225, 15.5ppg, 7.4rpg, 4.6apg.

Top Backups: G Dietric Slater, SR 6-3 200, 8.8ppg, 5.1rpg; F Jarvis Varnado, FR, 6-9 195, 5.6ppg, 4.9rpg, 45 blks; G Ben Hansbrough, FR, 6-3 200, 7.1ppg, 3.4apg, 26 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, FR, 6-2 165, 11.3ppg, 3.4rpg, 43 3ptrs.

By The Numbers:

Points Per Game: MSU 75.2ppg, LSU 68.9ppg

PPG Allowed: MSU 66.2ppg, LSU 59.7ppg

FG Shooting: MSU 46.5%, LSU 44.7%

FG Defense: MSU 38.2%, LSU 39.1%

3PT Shooting: MSU 364%, LSU 34.7%

3PT Made Per Game: MSU 7.7,. LSU 5.9

3PT Att's. Per Game: MSU 21.1, LSU 17.0

Rebounding: MSU 39.5rpg, LSU 38.2rpg

Rebounds Margin: MSU +3.5, LSU +5.2

FT Shooting: MSU 65.4%, LSU 71.4%

Free Throws Att. Per Game: MSU 22.9, LSU 17.0

Assists PG: MSU 14.2, LSU 14.4

Turnover Margin: MSU –1.7, LSU –0.3

The Series: These dogs and cats have been playing since 1909, annually since 1945, and this is State's second most-played rivalry. LSU holds a 101-88 lead, that margin largely built during the 1930s when the teams would play three and four times each season. The series is one of streaks by each side, most recently by the Tigers who have won the last four meetings. Before that State had won four-straight, and from 1994-99 the Bulldogs took 11 in a row. State leads 54-35 on campus, and 19-12 in Humphrey Coliseum. The teams have played four times in SEC Tournaments (three the modern event) with a 2-2 split. Rick Stansbury is 9-9 against the Tigers, 2-0 in SEC Tourneys. John Brady is 9-11 against the school he worked for from 1983-90.

Bulldog Basketball Notes: The Bulldogs were only credited with four blocked shots at Oxford, but they continue to pace the SEC. And, this team has already surpassed last year's total swats for the season. In 20 games these Dogs have now blocked 137 balls, while the 2005-06 squad managed 136 in 30. At the current rate they will set a season-standard for swats. The current record is 175 by the 1995-96 team.

*Freshman C Jarvis Varnado added two blocks to his total Tuesday. He now has 45 for the season, the most by a Bulldog since Tyrone Washington blocked 65 in 1999. Varnado already has the 10th-best year by a Bulldog blocker ever. But the season-record is, shall we say, likely out-of-reach; 106 by Erick Dampier in 1996.

*Junior F/C Charles Rhodes has 65 career blocks, tying for 9th on the MSU list with Gary Hooker (1976-78).

*After a series of up-and-down efforts, Rhodes was most certainly on his game at Oxford with 24 points. It was his second-best output of the season (25 vs. New Orleans) and first 20-point outing of this SEC season. In his four starts against Ole Miss, Rhodes has scored 80 points with 25 rebounds.

*As a sophomore Rhodes scored double-digits in every SEC game and averaged 17.3 points. In seven SEC games this season he has five double-digit outings and a 13.7-point average. While his total shots-per-SEC game and accuracy are slightly down from 2006, Rhodes also isn't going to the foul line as much this year either. In fact, the junior has attempted 24 SEC free throws in seven games.

*Hopefully Rhodes' rebounding is trending back upwards. After getting 11 boards through the previous three games he had seven boards at Ole Miss. He has blocked 12 shots in his last five games.

*Rhodes has a career shooting average of 56.1%, which is tenth-best in Bulldog history. He is up to 678 career points in 64 games (a 10.6 average) and 355 rebounds. The thresholds for top-20 status at MSU are 1,144 points and 564 rebounds.

*The Bulldog best at getting to the charity stripe is soph G Jamont Gordon. He was 6-of-7 on free throws at Oxford, giving him 119 attempts this season and 84 makes. And Gordon has attempted more SEC free throws than Rhodes, Varnado, and C Vernon Goodridge combined, 37 to 32.

*With 20 points at Ole Miss, Gordon has another double-digit scoring streak going, now at five games. One was a double-double, against Auburn, his third of the season. Gordon has scored double-figures 17 times in 20 games this year, and led State in scoring nine times.

*Gordon now has 722 career points, in 50 games for a 14.4 average. His SEC average is 14.6 through 23 games.

*With 92 assists this season Gordon has a positive ball-handling ratio, against 82 turnovers. As a freshman the ratio was reversed at 129/142 when Gordon led the league in giveaways. He has 221 career assists and needs 301 to move into the MSU top-ten.

*In the last three games Gordon has been 2-of-6 every time at the arc. In his first four SEC games he was a combined 2-of-10. And it's good that he gets to the stripe often because Gordon is a much-improved shooter there. In SEC play he is 28-of-37, 76%. As a freshman he was a 60% foul-shooter.

*Gordon played a season-high 38 minutes Tuesday. Take away the 20-minute home game with Ole Miss and he is averaging 33.7 minutes this SEC season. No other Dog is putting in as many as 30-average minutes in SEC action so far.

*Gordon has helped the Bulldogs raise their overall free-throw accuracy. The team is still amng the SEC's worst at the line but in their last four games the Dogs are 65-of-83, or 78.3%. For the season as a whole they are still just 65%.

*After tearing up defenses for weeks, freshman G Barry Stewart has slipped into the inevitable shooting slump. The rookie shot 54% at the arc, and 54% overall, in his first five SEC games. In the last two he is 0-of-11 total and 0-of-7 on trey-tries. Before this slump he had made at least one threeball in 11-straight games and all but one contest this season. Stewart still tops the team in made-treys with 43, and is shooting for the school freshman record of 59 set by Reginald Delk last winter.

*Stewart was able to hit a pair of free shots in both those games, though, so he has scored points in every contest of his freshman season. In fact, Stewart had made 25-straight free pitches (going back to his last attempt at Tennessee) until he missed one at Oxford. He is 27-of-30 at the line in SEC season, and 63-of-77 for the season. That 81.8% ranks 2nd-best in the SEC for the season.

*At the arc Stewart has shot 19-of-46, 41.3% in all road games, compared to 24-of-62, 38.7%, on his home court.

*Freshman G Ben Hansbrough has regained his status as the team's most accurate foul shooter. He is 33-of-39, 84.6% for the year. But he doesn't have enough attempts to meet SEC minimums for ranking; otherwise Hansbrough would be 2nd in the league this week.

*While he has 119 minutes on-court fewer than Gordon, Hansbrough is only one behind in season steals, 22 to 21.

*He had to wait half-a-season to get back on court and senior G Dietric Slater is trying to make up for lost time. He has scored double-digits three of the last four SEC games and four total, giving him a league-average of 9.3. His shot selection has been erratic at times but Slater is shooting surprisingly well at 46% from the floor, better than his career average. He is even 4-of-8 at the arc his last three contests.

*But aggressiveness comes with a cost; Slater has 14 fouls in that same stretch, fouling out against Florida and Ole Miss. He has been disqualified three times in eight games; only Gordon and Varnado have also fouled out twice and they've played the full season.

*Sophomore G Reginald Delk has made 33 threes this season, 12 in SEC games. He now has 92 longballs for his short college career. With nine more he will move into the MSU career top-ten, catching Marckell Patterson's 101 from 1999-02.

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