"I'm naturally pleased to win, but sometimes you have to take games and learn from things. The thing we tried to do this game was not do what happened Saturday night; going into halftime with a big lead and come out and play like we had a big lead. That is one thing that we talked about at halftime. I thought our kids came out in the second half and did what good teams have to do. Overall I thought that our effort was very good. I thought that we played hard defensively. I see some young men getting better in some areas. I thought that our fours and fives were a little bit better defensively tonight. Those areas we need to continue improving in. As always, Timmy (Bowers), (Derrick) Zimmerman and (Ontario) Harp(er) set that tone in the perimeter and that is where it starts."
Q&A with Rick Stansbury:
You outscored them 44 to 2 in the paint. Talk about that.
"I'm glad we scored some points in the paint. There is no question that this team has to establish some things on the inside. I think we made some strides the last two games to get better in those areas. Campbell had 16 on the block (7 of 8 from the field.-Gene). Those are areas we have to have some improvements in. I see improvement coming."
Do you think the ball movement part of your game is getting better?
"The last three teams have zoned us so much we haven't really had much of a chance to tackle a lot of man defenses, but one thing our perimeter people are doing is playing very unselfish. Everybody is willing to make an extra pass. As long as you can do that, we will continue to get better in those other areas. I like to see the unselfish play that we have out there right now. Guys having shots and turning them down for their teammates."
Timmy had 19 points and 7 assists tonight. His overall game seems to be really good this year.
"Timmy Bowers is a terrific basketball player. As a basketball player, he does a little of everything. He shoots it, handles it, passes it and he defends. And he has great basketball instincts. When you have all of those things and you have ability too, then you are a basketball player. That is what Timmy Bowers is. Last year, you saw spurts of what he could be. There is no substitute for experience. He has carried that experience over from March to October. From March to October, that is when players are made."
Has your depth improved the past few games?
"That is one thing that we've had the last game or so. Early, we didn't have any depth. We were without Branden (Vincent). We were without Stephen (Cowherd) who had a hurt ankle. We were without Wesley (Morgan). In the first game, we had Iggy in and out. Campbell and Lincoln (Smith) were getting fouls. The last two games we have been able to start to develop a little depth. Stephen Cowherd coming off the bench, we have been able to play him some the last two games. We need to get him the minutes so that he can get some playing time and understand what this game is about. I think (Winsome) Frazier is a young man who has gained a lot of confidence during this stretch. The kids have confidence in him and he is playing with a lot of confidence. We just have to get those big players better. The two big players (Campbell and Smith) haven't played a lot."
Has there been any progress in the Mario Austin situation?
"There is movement. I'm not so sure we like the movement. But there is movement for sure."
Is there any kind of timeframe for when his situation will be settled?
"We thought we were going to have something worked out by this Wednesday. We're not for sure we will now. There is progress being made. But we are going to make sure when it comes our time again the right things are in place for everything to be heard. We know the truth is a powerful thing. And the truth is on the young man's side but someone has to hear it though."
If you have to continue to wait, is there a point where you are just going to say we are going to play Mario and let the cards fall where they may?
"Go ahead and play him? I'm not sure if we will do that because we still think things are going to work out for us. But like I've said all along, we are in a catch-22. We can't move on without him totally because we can't change everything until we know for sure. But we have to approach it like we don't have him right now. The games will keep coming with or without him; they are coming and no one feels sorry for us. That is my approach with this team. One thing I'm not going to do before or after the games, we aren't going to make any excuses with or without him. Right now, we are without him; we have to progress without him the best that we can."
Are you guys keeping in touch with Mario's lawyer to see what he is doing or is that off to the side?
"That is off to the side. It is a daily thing. I promise you."
Alabama A&M coach L. Vann Pettaway:
Q&A with L. Vann Pettaway:
Talk about Mississippi State. What impressed you about them?
"I'm going to tell you something. They impressed me because Mario's not here. I'm serious. For them to play that hard and that good without him. That says a lot about what Coach Stansbury is doing with these kids. Most programs can't take a hit like that, they can't take a hit like that and their team performed the way those guys are performing. Coming in that was my biggest concern. I said they are playing so hard to try and compensate for the absent of Mario. And they are playing well. We played Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt could not stay on the floor with them."
What is the difference between the two teams?
"There is more depth here at Mississippi State. The guard play is much better than at Vanderbilt, much better. Zimmerman and Bowers, let's just say perimeter people, are more active. We didn't get that kind of pressure from Vanderbilt. We threw the ball away against Vanderbilt, but it wasn't because of the pressure that they applied to the wings. Mississippi State came with the pressure from the wings on us tonight. I thought early in the game we had a shot. I thought we had a shot until they turned up the screws. We had three straight turnovers. That took away any momentum that we had, but they caused it. They are playing great."
100 games, 21st birthday. Was this a good birthday gift?
"It was a great birthday gift. Anytime you play on your birthday and you get a victory out of it, it is always good."
Stephen Cowherd continues to improve each game. He says that you work him extremely, extremely hard during practice. Are you just trying to make him tougher?
"I'm trying to get him ready for when that time comes for him to step up, because you never know what might happen down the road. I just try to make his day hell every day in practice because he hasn't been through the defensive pressure that he is going to face when he goes into conference play. I'm just trying to make him better at what he does."
Have you noticed improvement in him since he has gotten healthy?
"He has gotten better. He is getting better at knowing the offense and getting guys where they are supposed to be. Coach Stansbury is very hard on his point guards. He always wants his point guards talking. In his system, the point guards have to know everybodys position. Steve has never had to do that. Now he is to the point where he can tell guys where they are supposed to be and not supposed to be."
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