Bulldog Basketball Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (7-4) makes the annual winter visit to Jackson to host Nicholls State (6-4) in a ‘home' game away from the home court. Tipoff in the Mississippi Coliseum is 7:00 with radio broadcast on the MSU basketball network.

*This is fifth consecutive season Mississippi State has moved a campus game to Jackson, taking advantage of the holiday school vacation break to give the central state fan base a ‘home' game of their own. The Bulldogs have won each time. State has played in the Mississippi Coliseum six times in Coach Rick Stansbury's ten previous seasons with a perfect record.

*All-time, Bulldog teams are 12-5 in the venue dating back to 1962, and MSU has not lost there since 1981.

*Stansbury made his head coaching debut in Jackson, in November 1998, with a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

*In State's six Jackson games under Stansbury, the average margin of victory has been 32 points.

*Nicholls is in the middle of a three-game SEC stretch. The Colonels are coming off a 68-56 loss at LSU last Wednesday. And following a dozen-day Christmas break, they will travel to Ole Miss.

About the Colonels: Maybe patience can pay off. Certainly few programs would have resisted temptation to make change after four seasons and a 33-82 record—including a 10-21 mark in year-four. But Nicholls has stuck with Coach J.P. Piper and now, perhaps, the dividends are showing. The Colonels are getting some fresh respect these days, projected to finish second in the Southland Eastern division. And their early-season performance does show progress, at least on offense where the Colonels rank 7th in the NCAA stats for team shooting. Sure, a lot of the numbers have come against lightweight fall foes, but Nicholls went to Baton Rouge last week and shot 41% against the nation's #1 field goal defense team. A trio of Colonels are scoring in double-digits through ten games, and it's a kid that's leading them with physical (240 pound) freshman guard Fred Hunter ringing up 14.5-per in his first month of college action. Though, the rookie got a reality check at LSU with just four points and no rebounds. And he's missed his last ten trey-tries. Those shots would be better-taken by senior Ryan Bathie, who holds the school record for made-threes…though he himself has been a bit cool at the arc of late, 4-of-16 in the last four games. The hottest hand this month has been swingman Anatoly Bose, one of five Australians who have made their way to Thibadaux. Bose had a big rookie year but did not start the first four games of his soph season; once returned to that lineup he has scored double-digits each time out, and he's pumped in 19 treys in this stretch. Though only 200 pounds Bose is the leading rebounder on this squad, an area Nicholls is overall vulnerable in; and he works his way to the foul line a lot where he cashes in free shots regularly. Quarterback Justin Payne does something of everything at each end, and has averaged three steals in the last four contests. It's the same story with backcourt partner Kellan Carter who just takes care of business quietly. Carter hasn't shot a trey in weeks, which is interesting given that offense is this team's calling card. The Colonels don't defend all that well and get outmuscled on the backboards. But if the shots are falling, little else matters.

Projected Starting Lineups

NICHOLLS STATE: F Ryan Bathie, SR 6-6 190, 13.5ppg, 3.6rpg; F/G Anatoly Bose, SO 6-6 200, 12.1ppg, 6.4rpg; G Fred Hunter, FR 6-5 240, 14.5ppg, 4.1rpg; G Justin Payne, SR 5-11 170, 6.5ppg, 3.3apg; G Kellan Carter, SO 6-0 180, 6.7ppg, 3.0rpg.

Top Backups: G/F Dominic Friend, SO 6-7 250, 5.6ppg, 3.3rpg; G Chris Iles, FR 5-11 165, 3.5ppg, 2.2apg.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Ravern Johnson SO 6-7 175, 11.5ppg, 3.9rpg, 25 3pts; G/F Phil Turner SO 6-3 170, 5.5ppg, 3.1rpg, 7 3pts; C Jarvis Varnado JR 6-9 210, 13.5ppg, 10.1rpg, 65%fgs, 66 blks; G Dee Bost FR 6-2 170, 8.8ppg, 49 asts, 14 3pts; G Barry Stewart JR 6-3 170, 9.5ppg, 2.9rpg, 15 3pts.

Top Backups: F Romero Osby FR 6-8 230, 7.2ppg, 3.7rpg; G Riley Benock SO 6-4 180, 2.5ppg, 1.2rpg; F Kodi Augustus SO 6-8 220, 7.3ppg, 5.0rpg.

How They Compare:

Scoring: MSU 74.9, Nicholls 69.7

Scoring Defense: MSU 64.2, Nicholls 60.7

FG Shooting: MSU 45.6%, Nicholls 50.7%

FG Defense: MSU 36.2%, Nicholls 45.6%

3-Point Shooting: MSU 35.3%, Nicholls 37.1%

3-Point Attempts PGame: MSU 18.8, Nicholls 20.2

Rebounding: MSU 41.5, Nicholls 28.5

Rebound Margin: MSU +3.8, Nicholls -1.7

Free Throw Shooting: MSU 69.0%, Nicholls 63.8%

Free Throw Attempts PGame: MSU 24.6, Nicholls 16.3

Turnovers: MSU 180, Nicholls 148

The Series: Mississippi State has played Nicholls (or Nicholls State) only four times, all since 1995 and always in Humphrey Coliseum, and won every meeting. Most recently, in the 2006-07 season with a 90-55 outcome at The Hump. State is 35-3 all-time against teams representing the Southland Conference.

Bulldog Notes: In all their seven wins this season the Bulldogs have led at halftime. In all four losses, they trailed at intermission.

*The 44.6% shot by Cincinnati was the best accuracy by a Bulldog opponent this season. State is still averaging a stout 36.2%-allowed shooting, better even than the 37.0% allowed all last season which set a modern SEC record.

*Where the Bearcats hurt the Bulldogs was from long range, making 12-of-27 treys (44%). Opponents tend to put up quite a few treys against State, preferring not to dare the closer shots against the SEC's top shot-blocker.

*State is 1-3 in games where the opponents score 70 or more points. Though, 77 is still the most anyone has hung on the Bulldogs this season. State also led the SEC in scoring defense last year.

*Yes, the Bulldogs boast the best swat-man in the league, even the nation, with C Jarvis Varnado blocking 66 balls through 11 games this year. But teammates have contributed 56 combined blocks, too. Opponents meanwhile have blocked only 37 of State's shots. The 2008 Bulldogs smashed the SEC season record with 267 blocks and 7.9 per-game.

*The biggest reason why, of course, being Varnado as he tied the league season record with 157 blocks. Though, the man he evened Shaquille O'Neal of LSU, got his 157 blocks in 30 games in 1991-92 while Varnado needed 34 games last saeason.

*Varnado is about to become only the fifth SEC player with 300 career blocks. He has 290 in three State seasons. Varnado needs 318 to catch Arkansas' Stephen Hill for 4th place, and the all-time mark was set by O'Neal in three years at 412.

*Varnado has blocked ten balls in three games, all as a sophomore. His high this season is nine against Louisiana-Monroe, with a pair of eight-block games.

*Varnado has blocked at least one shot in 73 of 80 career games, and in the last 28 games.

*But there is much more to Varnado's game now than blocking shots. He is scoring his own attempts, and just posted a career-best game with 24 points at Cincinnati. That eclipsed his previous career mark of 22 set just three games earlier.

*All three of Varnado's 20-point outings have come in the last two weeks, and only a eight-point night against Charlotte in between. He has scored double-digits seven times this season; he did it a dozen times all of 2007-08, though that included six of the final eight games.

*In his three 20-point games, Varnado shot a combined 29-of-37 (78%). A 10-of-13 night against UC bumped his season accuracy up to 64.8%. What is meaningful there is that Varnado is attempting 7.4 shots a game, after taking just 5.0 shots per sophomore game and 3.3 as a freshman.

*Varnado has two double-doubles this season. He had three all of last campaign.

*And while it's not much to brag about, Varnado has improved his free-throwing to 60.0%. He only broke-even as a soph, making 50 of 100 attempts at the stripe.

*A hurting left wrist didn't keep junior G Barry Stewart out of the lineup at UC, making his 45th-straight start. And he returned to his ‘iron man' form by playing 33 minutes; this after an injury-shortened stint of 18 minutes the previous game. Stewart never played less than 25 minutes as a sophomore, or 30 minutes in any SEC game. He averaged 35.7 minutes for the season, tops on the roster.

*Though he was 3-of-8 shooting against Cincinnati (1-of-3 at the arc) it was Stewart's best accuracy since a 4-of-9 outing November 22 against Fairleigh Dickinson.

*Still Stewart is struggling to find his touch. He is at 36% shooting overall this year and 30.0% even (15-of-50) on trey-tries. In the last five games he is 2-of-21 at the arc.

*Stewart is 7th on the MSU career made-threes list with 145. He needs 15 more to catch Winsome Frazier (2002-05) for 6th place. Only a dozen Dogs have made 100 or more treys.

*Freshman PG Dee Bost has 49 assists in his first eleven college games. If that doesn't sound like a lot, he needs just one more scoring pass to move into the rookie-season record list. His assist/turnover rate is positive, too, with just 31 giveaways.

*But after beginning his freshman year with a hot hand offensively, Bost has cooled a lot lately. He is 6-of-26 shooting the last three games, and has missed his last nine trey-tries.

*Soph G/F Ravern Johnson is State's most consistent source of long-range scoring, with 27 treys in 11 games. That is more treys than he had tries (24) at the arc all last season.

*In the last four games Johnson is 9-of-16 at the arc. His season rate is 52.1%.

*And the soph is more accurate at the stripe, making 75% even on free throws and 8 of his last 11 attempts.

*Getting into the tipoff team has ignited G Phil Turner's offensive game, as he has scored double-digits in both is sophomore starts. He posted a career-best 12 points the last time out, topping the 11 he scored against Kentucky as a freshman.

*In both games Turner was 50% from the floor (8-of-16 combined), and he hit two treys in five tries at Cincinnati. But he sets a pace on the other end as well, with seven steals in the last three games. He also has 13 rebounds the past four games…all defensive boards.

*Inconsistent efforts in such areas as rebounding and defense cost F Kodi Augustus his starting job for the South Alabama game; and he did not play at all at Cincinnati. The sophomore had back-to-back games of 10 and 16 points, but then had just four points the next two starts and lost that role.

*Yet Augustus is the most accurate Bulldog at the charity stripe, having made 23 of 27 chances for 85.2%.

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