State Gets The Job Done 71-60

The final score of 71-60 wasn't exactly what the Mississippi State fans who saw the MSU victory over the University of the Cumberlands was expecting, but it didn't surprise MSU head coach Rick Stansbury.

"Give them some credit because they are a tough little team to defend. When the other team plays small, you are playing big, and they can all drive and shoot it, it's a tough matchup," said Stansbury. "You could play zone against them and slow it down, but we weren't going to do that. We have to learn how to play big."

What was unexpected, even for Stansbury, was how poorly State shot the ball - 3-16 from the three-point line for a 18.8% and 20-38 from the charity stripe. After a few weeks of practice, the one thing that stood out about his team was their shooting. Not so this game.

"I think the things that stand out in my mind about the game is things that we have been doing well this fall - shoot the ball - we didn't do well," noted Stansbury.

Part of that could be attributed to his playing rotation during the game. At times, five true freshmen were playing. And at other times four true freshman and a redshirt junior.

"Right now, I'm trying to give a lot of guys an opportunity to play," said Stansbury. "I played all the guys and played different rhythms."

And in the second half, when the freshmen were brought in, they were taken advantage of in a hurry.

"I think we were up 8 or 9 and I put the freshmen in again and they dissected them in a hurry and got it back to one," said Stansbury.

And that's just what happened when Stansbury brought in four true freshmen - Ravern Johnson, Riley Benock, Kodi Augustus and Phil Turner - and junior transfer Brian Johnson at the 13:19 mark with State leading 49-41.

Four minutes and forty seconds later, MSU led by one - 53-52 - with 8:39 on the clock.

Then, starters Ben Hansbrough, Barry Stewart, Charles Rhodes, Jamont Gordon and Jarvis Varnado were brought back in.

And State quickly scored four points by Jamont Gordon to jump back out by five - 57-52.

"When the game was on the line, (Jamont Gordon) turned it up," said Stansbury of his point guard's play. "And there were times when he turned it up defensively."

Then, during the last five minutes of the game, State's veterans put the game away.

"I think in the last five minutes of the game we really started playing with some energy and really started moving and doing some things we were capable of doing," said Stansbury of his team's 14-8 run during that time frame.

Sophomore center Jarvis Varnado scored four of the fourteen points. He also played well defensively during that period.

"I thought that Jarvis Varnado erased a lot of things around the basket," said Stansbury of Varnado, who led the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounding. "He had 8 block shots and 13 (points) and 11 (rebounds). I thought he was a difference around the hole."

Not so with his other veteran big man - Charles Rhodes.

"Charles Rhodes has to learn how to play big and chase those guys around and get out in transition," said Stansbury of his senior forward. "It's lucky his guy didn't make a lot of shots. He was two for nine (from three-point range) and every one of his shots he was open on."

His guy was Mike Gibson who was 3-13 overall and 2-9 from the three-point line.

As for the overall play of his freshmen, Stansbury wasn't happy, especially with their toughness, but he understands they are just freshmen and will continue to get better the more games they get under their belts.

"All the freshmen have to get tougher - physically and mentally - and defend and rebound tougher," said Stansbury. "Every one of those freshman. But they are typical freshmen right now."

However, one freshman, Elgin Bailey, was singled out by Stansbury, although he only played four minutes during the game.

"The one (freshman) that is probably ahead of all of them in (the toughness) area is Elgin Bailey," said Stansbury of the 6-8, 265-pounder. "Because of the rotation that we went to he didn't play near the minutes as anybody else. And he's the guy who needs more minutes because he's the one freshman that is the fartherest along."

While Varnado led the team in scoring, three other Bulldogs scored in double digits with Rhodes leading the way with 12 points, followed by Stewart and Gordon with 11 points each. Stewart also recorded a team-leading 5 steals.

Those four will have to continue their performances with NAIA powerhouse Oklahoma City due up next Tuesday night at the Hump.

"The team (we play) Tuesday night, they haven't been beaten since the last time they left the Hump," said Stansbury. "Last year, they led us by two at halftime and we beat them by seven. Since then, they've won thirty-eight straight games."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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