"It is always nice to win. I saw some things that showed some progress. As a coach at this time of year, that is what you are looking for. I thought that our three perimeter guys, Z (Derrick Zimmerman), Timmy (Bowers) and (Ontario) Harper did a terrific job. We had some guys come off the bench. Frazier did what we needed him to do, make shots. We got good post play from Lincoln (Smith) and (Marcus) Campbell. There are a lot of things that we have to get better at, but I thought I saw some progress.
"It was good to be able to play a couple of new kids. Stephen Cowherd got some good minutes and played without turning the basketball over. That is important. Branden Vincent came in and gave us some energy and did some things. I thought he passed the ball well. Those are the parts and pieces that we have to work on to figure out what makes us best.
"We saw zone tonight and we hadn't even worked on zone. Anything against the zone, it is my fault not the team's fault. We were lost against that."
Talk about the 16-4 run in the second half. (It was actually a 18-4 run. MSU went from being down by three (48-51) to being up by 11 (66-55).-Gene)
"I think that is what gives our team a chance to be a pretty good basketball team. We have three guys on the perimeter in Z, Timmy and Harper that defensively can change a basketball game. I thought their energy and their quickness, their ability to finish in transition is something that is not easy to go against. I think that will be a strong weapon for us all year long. We saw Z and Timmy last year. As I said all along, I think that Harper has a lot of potential and he played with the energy level that we want him to play at."
Talk a little about Marcus Campbell's effort.
"I'm going to keep saying this. It is amazing when you look at the stats. We did this last (exhibition). You look at the stats and he has great stats again, 21 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes. And this is being very positive; Campbell is nowhere near where he needs to be and where we want him to be. But he is making great progress. We see that everyday. Are we satisfied where he is? It's not even close. He is nowhere near where he can be, but he's making progress. His progress is going to come from not having a good day and a bad day, two good drills and two bad drills, but to where he can have a good drill and good day everyday. Then he is going to become a player.It is coming because we see it a little bit everyday."
Talk a little about Branden Vincent's effort tonight.
"He never has to show me anything about effort because he was the living proof of effort when he got his teeth knocked out and came back with them in his pocket ready to practice. You'll never have to question his toughness. Tonight is the first time he played. Everytime he came in, they went zone a little bit and he was a little confused. Branden Vincent is going to be a great addition for us once we fit him into what he does best. You haven't seen his ability to score around that block."
Does this game give you a good measuring stick to where your team is based on who the Harlem Globetrotters have played? (2002 National Champion Maryland defeated the Globetrotters by 18 points a few days ago.-Gene)
"Everybody probably looks at who they played and how they did more than I do. I can look at that team and say they are pretty good players. To see us step up and handle them the way we did in the second half shows me that our team is making progress. I like it when I see up outrebounding people every game. I like it when I see Iggy and Harper getting good on the backboards."
Can you give us an update on Mario Austin's status?
"Nothing has changed. As all of you know, I can't make a comment on it. Everybody knows the situation. Most of you guys have written about it. It has nothing to do with Mississippi State. It has nothing to do with Mario Austin. It affects Mario and it affects Mississippi State if he does not play. That decision will be reached sometime next week. That is the only comment I'm going to make on it."
Can you clarify what you mean by saying the decision will be reached next week.
"There will be a decision made next week on his status."
Is the team rallying around him?
"I don't think anybody is rallying around him. Mario is such a great kid. He is a better person than he is a player."
Between now and the first game what is one thing you will really need to work on?
"We have to do a lot of things. We don't have a zone defense and zone offense. Our philosophy is to get that man to man defending and rebounding where we want it to be before we do that. I think we are making progress. We have to continue progressing as a team where we can change defenses from zone to man back to zone. We are going to see those changes so we need to practice against that. There are a lot of little things we need to fine tune."
Talk about the energy your team got from the crowd tonight.
"We had a great crowd. The crowd is so important to us and we feed off of the crowd. The students are bring an energy that no one else brings. That flows throughout that arena. And we had a great contingent of students tonight. That is what we need every night. The Rowdies set the tone."
Your team played pretty good without him. What do you think might be ahead with him?
"I think we would all agree in this room that when he is out there he is pretty good. Without him we are a pretty good team. Does Mario Austin make our team better? I think that is pretty obvious. As good as he was last year, I don't even think it close to where he is this year. It is not even close. We'll see soon."
Did you see the Globetrotters on television against Maryland?
"I missed that game on tv but I watched them on film."
Does it surprise you that your team defeated them by 21 points?
"I'm probably surprised at the margin. It was a pleasant surprise. Am I surprised that we won the game? No. We knew it was going to be dogfight without Mario. But I felt like we had one advantage in this game, our perimeter quickness. Our perimeter quickness was the difference in the game. The margin, I guess that surprised everybody. I think (the) Maryland (game) was a 4 point game with three minutes to go."
Milton Barnes, Globetrotters head coach:
Talk about the run MSU had during the second half when you guys were up by 3 and they went up by 11.
"It was a credit to their defense. I think they realized what things we were doing defensively to try and keep them from getting any type of offensive rhythm. The got into that rhythm in the second half. Once they were in it, it was hard to get them out of it."
The only other two teams your team has lost to are Vanderbilt and Maryland. How does the Bulldogs compare to those two teams?
"When you are playing top notch teams this early in the year, it is tough to separate them in terms of what teams are better than the other. Each of them have their own distinct personality. The biggest thing is they are quality teams. I have been in coaching for over 20 years and I have always been impressed with the athleticism of teams in the ACC and the SEC. Vanderbilt has historically not had great athletes but I think they have improved themselves athletically. Maryland and Mississippi State are doing the things that they have always been able to do. I think Rick (Stansbury) has done a great job with his guys. Considering they didn't have Mario Austin tonight, they still had an inside presence. That is what I wasn't sure they would have without him. I thought their big guy stepped up and did a really admirable job. And you know you have good guard play. That is not going to be a question with (Mississippi State).
"I'll say this much. When you look at Maryland, winners of the national championship, and Mississippi State, who also had a great season last year, I see no reason why those two teams won't be back in the hunt this year. I am really impressed with the overall team balance and the things that they have. You have to have athleticism and great backcourt. That is what both teams have. They have a set of guards that rate right up there with any of the backcourts out there."
Did you know anything about Marcus Campbell before tonight?
"No, I didn't know much about him. So we thought we didn't have to be overly concerned with their inside guys."
You've played a lot of games back to back. Does it kind of wear on your team because you do have some guys who are a little older than the college kids you play?
"(Laugh) Yeah you are right. You are trying to be nice. Yeah, it is tough. It is a very demanding schedule, physically and mentally. You travel in between games. You don't have much time to prepare. It is difficult, but that is part of being a Globetrotter. We have to be prepared every night and do the best that we can. Certainly, going purely competitive is a new area for us to some degree. I think it is a great program that we are developing. I think in time we will be much more suited for this schedule and the type teams that we are playing. I think we are still giving them a great challenge. We are doing to teams things that makes them feel like they are in a real game."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org