M&F Bank Basketball Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (10-5, 1-0 SEC) plays the first home game of 2008, and of the home SEC season, hosting Georgia (9-4). Tip-off at Humphrey Coliseum is 1:00 for the regional telecast on Raycom (formerly Lincoln Financial) Sports.

*State began conference play by defeating LSU in Baton Rouge Wednesday night. This is Georgia's league lid-lifter, as they played arch-rival Georgia Tech that night and won 79-72.

*The MSU Bulldogs are 5-2 at home, where they have not played since Dec. 29 when they defeated Missouri. Georgia has been a perfect 8-0 in Athens, but only 1-4 away from home.

*At this game, Coach Rick Stansbury will be recognized for becoming Mississippi State's all-time leader in career victories. In his tenth season, Stansbury broke the mark of 191 wins set from 1987-98 by his former boss Richard Williams. The record fell on Dec. 21 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Stansbury now has 194 wins, but this is the first home game since then with school in session.

About the (other) Bulldogs: After a tough few years there's been progress for Dennis Felton's program. Georgia was something of a surprise last year at 19-14, breaking-even in SEC play and earning a NIT berth and even a win there. A tough pre-SEC schedule has produced some losses though, so these Dogs still have to do well in the next two months to make a NCAA case. UG's edge should be one of the more mature lineups in the league, especially with guard Sundiata Gaines getting another senior year. Though just 6-1, this old Dog gets it done on offense, defense, in the backcourt or on the glass. But it's junior guard Billy Humphrey who has set the scoring pace, both overall and from the three-point line. Though that's another matter, because Georgia doesn't throw up lots of longballs; they have only 80 made-treys in 13 games. No, this team prefers a pace that lets them play body-on-body. And some of those bodies aren't especially athletic; center Dave Bliss has size yet only ten blocks, and the team 49 total or less than many individual SEC players. Georgia also lost veteran center Rashaad Singleton, who decided after the fall semester to find somewhere else to play a senior season. So rookie Jeremy Price and his 270 pounds have moved into the lineup. He and Bliss shoot rarely, if efficiently. Junior Terrance Woodbury is a key, a 6-7 body who can play inside and out and pop the occasional jumper. The bench doesn't provide a lot of individual stats; what it does offer is minutes as there are 10 current Dogs averaging 12 or more minutes' work. And they all do something of everything, which points to an overall versatility with whatever personnel are on court at the time. So while there are only two Bulldogs averaging double-digit points, game-planning for this squad presents some interesting challenges. Especially if somebody happens to have the sort of hot-shot day that Georgia must count on if the program is to stay on a post-season pace.

Projected Starting Lineups

GEORGIA: F Jeremy Price, FR 6-8 270, 9.2ppg, 4.8rpg, 54%fgs; C Dave Bliss, SR 6-10 255, 7.1ppg, 4.5rpg, 10blks, 59%fgs; G/F Terrance Woodbury, JR 6-7 220, 9.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 11 3ptrs; G Sundiata Gaines, SR 6-1 210, 12.8ppg, 5.7rpg, 4.8apg, 13 3ptrs; G Billy Humphrey, JR 6-2 190, 14.2ppg, 4.0rpg, 29 3ptrs.

Top Alternates: F/C Albert Jackson, SO 6-10 250, 2.0ppg, 5.0rpg; G Zac Swansey, FR 6-1 175, 4.8ppg, 2.1apg, 5 3ptrs; G Corey Butler, JR 6-3 190, 3.2ppg, 2.2rpg, 6 3ptrs; G Troy Brewer, FR 6-5 170, 5.3ppg, 1.5rpg, 15 3ptrs.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Jamont Gordon, JR 6-4 230, 17.2ppg, 6.4rpg, 4.3apg, 22 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SO 6-9 210, 7.1ppg, 8.5rpg, 73 blks; G Ben Hansbrough, SO 6-3 205, 10.0ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.9apg, 29 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SO 6-2 170, 12.1ppg, 4.5rpg, 3.4apg, 28 3ptrs; G Phil Turner, rFR 6-3 170, 5.3ppg, 2.9rpg, 12 3ptrs.

Top Alternates: G Ravern Johnson, FR 6-7 175, 3.3ppg, 1.1rpg; F/C Brian Johnson, JR 6-9 245, 3.1ppg, 2.9rpg; G Riley Benock, 6-4 180, 2.0ppg, 1.0rpg; F/C Charles Rhodes, SR 6-8 245, 15.6ppg, 7.3rpg, 16 blks.

How They Compare

Scoring: MSU 74.1ppg, GA 71.8ppg

Scoring Defense: MSU 61.9ppg, GA 65.3ppg

FG Shooting: MSU 46.6%, GA 45.6%

FG Defense: MSU 36.1%, GA 40.4%

3-Point Shooting: MSU 32.8%, GA 34.2%

3-Point Attempts: MSU 21.1pg, GA 18.0pg

Rebounding: MSU 42.7pg, GA 38.9pg

Rebound Margin: MSU +7.7, GA +5.8

Free Throw Shooting: MSU 61.7%, GA 67.9%

Free Throw Attempts: MSU 20.7pg, GA 20.8

Assists: MSU 14.3pg, GA 12.5pg

Turnover Ratio: MSU -1.5, GA -0.9

The Series: These teams never met on hardwood until 1932, the last year of the old Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (predecessor to the SEC). 76 years and 96 games later the series is a flat-footed tie, with 48 wins apiece. State had taken a lead by winning four-straight from 2004-06, but Georgia's win at home last year re-tied things. Rick Stansbury is 5-5 against Georgia teams.

Bulldog Notes: Mississippi State remains the league-leader in field goal defense, at 36.1%. The Bulldogs are also third in scoring defense.

*The Bulldogs have a larger lead in blocked shots, with 8.1 rejections per-game. More meaningful maybe is that State has blocked 122 shots; opponents have swatted just 41 MSU attempts, a 3-to-1 pace.

*Having joined the 1,000-Point Club earlier this year, G/F Jamont Gordon is flying up the career scoring list. With 13 points at LSU, he now stands alone in 15th place with 1,232, one more than Erick Dampier (1994-96). Top-ten status isn't all that far away now with 1,307 points the threshold.

*Gordon has scored double-digits in 71 of his 80 Mississippi State games.

*Gordon has put up 12 or more field goal attempts in 13 of the 15 games this season. The rest of the Bulldog roster combined has fired up double-digit attempts 18 total times. Gordon's 19 shots taken against Lafayette College matched his season-high (19 against Miami Fl.). He is averaging 14.1 shots per-game, almost one-quarter of his team's attempts.

*Gordon is still pitching the ball to teammates, though, and now has 381 career assists to rank 5th all-time at MSU. In his last seven games Gordon has passed for 35 assists.

*Where the junior has slipped lately is in perimeter accuracy. In the same seven games Gordon is 8-of-33 at the arc; and that includes a 5-of-7 day against Marymount.

*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.

*Sophomore C Jarvis Varnado has become a true center-piece in the absence of Charles Rhodes. The younger postman notched his first career double-double with a 16 point, 12 rebound effort against Lafayette. Four nights later he did it in the SEC opener with 13 points and a career-best (so far) 17 rebounds at LSU.

*Since becoming the only big man in the lineup Varnado has averaged 12.6 points and 12.3 rebounds. In the preceding 12 games he averaged 5.7 points and 7.6 boards.

*Varnado is still selective on offense, having taken just 21 shots the past three games. He made good on 15 of them. For the year he is a 60.5% shooter, best on the roster, and only four games has he been under 50%.

*Whatever the lineup, though, Varnado does one thing consistently well. He is the SEC's shot-blocking leader with 4.9 per-game. That's 73 swats already this year, surpassing in 15 games the 67 he blocked as a freshman in 35 games.

*Varnado owns the freshman-year MSU record for blocks and is already 5th on the career list with 140 in just a season-and-a-half. 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 8.6 rebounds midway of the soph season and ranks 5th in the SEC. Varnado had 146 rebounds all last year; he has 129 in 15 games this season.

*However, his free-throw shooting can still stand some work. Varnado is just 14-of-35 for the year, under 39% at the stripe.

*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.

*There's a good race ongoing with classmate guards Ben Hansbrough and Barry Stewart for the team three-pointer lead. Hansbrough has moved into first place with 29 treys thanks to hitting five of them in the Lafayette game. Stewart has 28 threeballs to his credit. They have 57 of the team's 104 treys.

*Stewart is already up to 96 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.

*As a freshman, Stewart typically was more accurate at the arc on hostile or neutral courts. So far this year though he is taking more advantage of the home court with 38.5% shooting, compared to 35.1% away.

*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 24 assists in the last six games. In the same span nominal ‘point guard' Gordon has 21 assists.

*And Stewart is actually the team's leader in court-time. His 33.6 minutes is fourth-most in the entire SEC in fact. Stewart rated only 24 minutes a game as a freshman, Hansbrough a minute less.

*Hansbrough continues a freshman trend; he's the most reliable free throw man on the team, at 81% this year, yet he doesn't get to the stripe often enough to be ranked by the SEC in that category. He hasn't taken a free shot in three of the last four games.

*Yet, Hansbrough has been going into the taller timber often of late. In the last four games he has 25 rebounds, and has raised his season-average to 4.1. Last year he notched 2.8 boards per-game. His eight rebounds against home-state squad Missouri was a career-best.

*And in the last three games, Hansbrough has had four assists each time. His assist-to-turnover ratio is just a tick under two-to-one in fact.

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