M&F Bank Basketball Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (9-5) opens the 2008 SEC schedule with a road game, playing at Louisiana State (7-7) Wednesday evening. Game time from the Maravich Assembly Center is 7:00 with no network telecast. The 29-station MSU radio network will carry the broadcast, with Jack Cristil in his 51st year calling the roundball play-by-play.

*Mississippi State is 7-2 in SEC openers under Coach Rick Stansbury. The only losses in league lid-lifters came in 2001 (home, Florida) and last January (at Tennessee).

*Stansbury teams have posted a 11-9 record against LSU, and won three times in Baton Rouge.

About the Tigers: There's no better example of the inherent volatility in SEC basketball than the twists of fortune in Baton Rouge lately. The Tigers went from their Final Four drama of 2006, to no post-season play at all last March after a 5-11 and last-place West finish. Climbing out of the Division cellar isn't going to be easy this year, either, unless John Brady's bunch can get really healthy, really fast. It's been a busy couple of months already in the training room, with the latest casualty impressive juco forward Chris Johnson. He was giving almost a dozen points and two blocks a night before breaking a hand-bone on the rim in a loss to Tulane. LSU was already without junior Quinton Thornton after pectoral surgery, and even more damaging was the ankle injury to veteran Tasmin Mitchell just three games into the campaign. He gave 14.5 points and was LSU's second-best outside scorer of last season. Only seven scholarship Tigers dressed for Saturday's loss at #12 Texas A&M, as forward Dameon Mason missed that inter-session game for academics. So what's a coach to do if most of the big bodies are hurting? Go small, of course. Brady is expected to open with Anthony Randolph in the post and big guard Garrett Temple helping out on the baseline. Randolph might be the SEC's top frosh so far, notching nearly 14 points and eight boards while swatting everything he can reach. Temple is certainly versatile enough to play inside and out, to rebound and pass and score. At this point though LSU is dependant on perimeter offense from junior guards Marcus Thornton and Terry Martin with almost 60 treys between them through 14 games. Rookie guard Bo Spencer is likely to get another start in the small lineup, while classmate Garrett Green is the big cat off the bench…at least until Johnson returns to active status. Going with four guards shows on the boards where LSU has gone from a plus-five rebound rate last year to negative numbers now. And while this is an accurate team at the foul stripe, they also send opponents to the line a lot. Not good, since fouls are about as damaging now as injuries to the thin roster.

Projected Starting Lineups

LOUISIANA STATE: F Anthony Randolph, FR 6-10 190, 13.9ppg, 7.9rpg, 38 blks; G/F Garrett Temple, JR 6-6 185, 6.1ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.4apg; G Marcus Thornton, JR 6-4 190, 17.5ppg, 6.1rpg, 31 3ptrs; G Terry Martin, JR 6-6 200, 10.5ppg, 3.4rpg, 27 3ptrs; G Bo Spencer, FR 6-1 175, 6.0ppg, 2.4apg, 17 3ptrs.

Top Alternates: F Garrett Green, FR 6-10 205, 2.6ppg, 2.5rpg; F Chris Johnson, JR 6-11 185, 11.5ppg, 4.8rpg, 27 blks; F Dameon Mason, SR 6-6 185, 2.5ppg, 3.0rpg.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Jamont Gordon, JR 6-4 230, 17.5ppg, 6.4rpg, 4.6apg, 21 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SO 6-9 210, 6.6ppg, 8.0rpg, 66 blks; G Ben Hansbrough, SO 6-3 205, 10.2ppg, 2.8apg, 28 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SO 6-2 170, 12.2ppg, 4.5rpg, 27 3ptrs; G Phil Turner, rFR 6-3 170, 5.4ppg, 2.9rpg, 12 3ptrs.

Top Alternates: G Ravern Johnson, FR 6-7 175, 3.0ppg, 0.9rpg; F/C Brian Johnson, JR 6-9 245, 3.4ppg, 3.2rpg; G Riley Benock, 6-4 180, 1.9ppg, 1.1rpg.

How They Compare

Scoring: MSU 75.1ppg, LSU 70.6ppg

Scoring Defense: MSU 63.5ppg, LSU 67.0ppg

FG Shooting: MSU 46.5%, LSU 44.5%

FG Defense: MSU 37.3%, LSU 39.7%

3-Point Shooting: MSU 33.5%, LSU 33.4%

3-Point Attempts: MSU 21.4pg, LSU 20.7pg

Rebounding: MSU 42.4rpg, LSU 35.5rpg

Rebound Margin: MSU +7.4, LSU -3.4

Free Throw Shooting: MSU 62.2%, LSU 72.9%

Free Throw Attempts: MSU 21.0pg, LSU 17.6pg

Assists: MSU 14.5pg, LSU 12.9pg

Turnover Ratio: MSU -1.1, LSU -0.4

The Series: LSU holds a 101-90 lead, and is 63-32 in games played in Baton Rouge. Mississippi State won it's last game played at LSU, 56-50 last season.

Bulldog Notes: Mississippi State goes into SEC play as the league-leader in field goal defense, at 37.3%. That's one-tenth of a point ahead of #2 Kentucky. The Bulldogs are also third in scoring defense.

*The Bulldogs have a larger lead in blocked shots, with 8.0 rejections per-game. Coincidentally, LSU is second this week at 7.29 blocks.

*Having joined the 1,000-Point Club earlier this year, G/F Jamont Gordon is flying up the career scoring list. He now is in a three-way tie for 16th in the MSU points list, even with Dave Williams (1966-68) and Leland Mitchell (1961-63) with 1,219 points. Top-ten status isn't all that far away either, with 1,307 points the threshold.

*Gordon starts SEC season ranking: 5th in league scoring, 5th in assists, 13th in rebounds, 14th in field-goal shooting and 15th in free-throw shooting.

*Gordon has put up 12 or more field goal attempts in 12 of the 14 games this season. The rest of the Bulldog roster combined has fired up double-digit attempts 17 total times. Gordon's 19 shots taken against Lafayette College matched his season-high (19 against Miami Fl.). He is averaging 14.2 shots per-game, almost one-quarter of his team's attempts.

*Gordon is still pitching the ball to teammates, though, and now has 380 career assists to rank 5th all-time at MSU. In his last six games Gordon has passed for 34 assists.

*Where the junior has slipped lately is in perimeter accuracy. In the same last six games Gordon is 7-of-27 at the arc; and take away his 5-of-7 day against Marymount and that falls to 2-of-22 shooting.

*Gordon failed to notch double-digit points only once this season, at South Alabama (7 points). Yet that game also produced his season-best 13 rebounds.

*Before his ankle injury, senior F Charles Rhodes had scored double-digits in seven-straight games with a season-high 26 in the last outing. In this stretch Rhodes was shooting 61% with just one sub-break even outing. That wasn't far off his 68% free-throw shooting in this same span.

*Rhodes still ranks 11th in SEC scoring, 9th in rebounding, and is the league's 7th-best field goal shooter.

*Sitting on the sidelines means Rhodes is currently frozen at 1,100 career points, 26th on the MSU chart. He needs 15 more to move into the top-25 and catch Red Stroud (1961-63).

*Rhodes hasn't failed to grab at least five boards in any game this season and has four double-digit efforts on the glass.

*In his first three seasons Rhodes posted six double-doubles; he has four of them this year already.

*Rhodes is a 55.90% career shooter, clinging to 10th spot on the MSU list.

*But his senior-year free-throw shooting is just 60.% so far, compared to his 70.7% rate of the previous three years.

*Rhodes is still tied for sixth in career blocks with Wiley Peck (1976-79) with 117.

*The absence of Rhodes has meant more responsibility, and opportunity, for C Jarvis Varnado. The soph has stepped-up to the challenge with nine and 16 points in the two games Rhodes did not play. Varnado also posted his first career double-double this past Saturday with the 16 points, 12 boards against Lafayette College.

*In the last seven games Varnado has averaged 8.9 points; in the first seven games of the year he was scoring 4.4 points. Yet his minutes played have actually decreased; in the first seven games he played 189 minutes, in the last seven 175.

*After setting the freshman-year MSU record with 67 blocked shots, Varnado now has 66 swats just halfway through his sophomore season. That puts him first in the SEC in swats by a considerable margin, 4.71 to 2.71 for the next-nearest league player.

*Varnado already has 133 career blocks and ranks 5th on the MSU list. Next-up is the 163 by Rickey Brown (1977-80). The career record is 249 by Erick Dampier (1994-96) in three years.

*The season blocks record also belongs to Dampier, 106 as a 1996 senior. Varnado is obviously on a pace to smash that mark.

*Where Varnado has made another ‘jump' this year is in rebounding. After averaging 4.2 boards as a rookie, he is getting 8.0 rebounds midway of the soph season and ranks 5th in the SEC. Varnado had 146 rebounds all last year; he has 112 in 14 games this season.

*His aggressiveness also means Varnado leads State in disqualifications, having fouled out of three games. Rhodes has done so twice.

*There's a good race ongoing with classmate guards Ben Hansbrough and Barry Stewart for the team three-pointer lead. Going into conference season, Hansbrough has moved into first place with 28 treys thanks to hitting five of them in the Lafayette game. Stewart has 27 threeballs to his credit. They have 55 of the team's 100 treys.

*Stewart is already up to 95 threes as a Bulldog. He will soon become just the 11th Bulldog with 100 treys, and with 111 will match Doug Hartsfield (1988-91) for tenth-place on the career chart.

*Stewart has shown long-range consistency this year whether playing at home or away/neutral courts (38.5% to 36.4%); or in MSU wins (38.6%) and losses (35.7%). If there's a variable, it's that in MSU wins he has actually taken fewer long shots than in the losses.

*As State has gone ‘small' with the lineup, Stewart has found himself out on the point with the ball more often. He's used the situation to become a productive passer, with 19 assists in the last five games. In the same span Gordon has 20 assists.

*And Stewart is actually the team's leader in court-time. His 33.8 minutes is fourth-most in the entire SEC in fact. Gordon is 9th, Hansbrough 15th. Stewart rated only 24 minutes a game as a freshman, Hansbrough a minute less.

*Seven Bulldogs are accounting for 88% of the minutes played this season.

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