*The Bonnies have lost their only true road game so far, at Illinois State; while the Bulldogs are 3-1 at home.
*State has already played one Atlantic 10 opponent this year, losing last Friday to Richmond in the South Padre Island Invitational. MSU is 15-9 against the A-10. Meanwhile S.B. is 1-8 against SEC squads.
*Coach Rick Stansbury has scored 125 career victories against non-conference opponents, with a 75% winning percentage in such games both regular- and post-season.
About the Bonnies: There was a time when this was one of those northeastern-address programs schools from bigger leagues feared to face. That was a while back and lots of league-shufflings ago of course, yet after a dormant period St. Bonaventure again shows signs of roundball life. Coach Mark Schmidt's second season in Olean, N.Y. produced a 15-15 record that was the program's best in six year, and first appearance in the A-10 tournament since 2005. This is a real rebuild job too, starting with attention to defense and rebounding first with offense developing in-turn. Well, last year the Bonnies ranked top-half in the A-10 in all rebound categories and out-boarded 22 of 30 foes. And in November they held consecutive foes to point totals in the 40s for the first time since the first Reagan administration. And now the scoring is showing; or we should say shooting, because St.B tops the NCAA's first stat-release of the year in field goal accuracy at 55%. Mr. Efficiency here is forward/center Andrew Nicholson, the A-10's Rookie of the Year last winter at 12.5 ppg and 81 blocks. His soph-scoring is up four points on near-71% shooting, and he's also making the free throws he missed as a freshman. The Bonnies are going big on the front line this year with third-year soph Da'Quan Cook moving into the lineup after starting just three times last season. 4.2 points doesn't look like much but it's marked improvement on his 1.6 frosh rate and he only takes makeable shots. Of course senior guard Chris Matthews sees every outside shot as makeable, and after going 6-of-19 in the first three games he's hit 18 of the last 30 with six treys. In fact Matthews has made 23 of the team's total 32 threeballs on 49% shooting, so the Bulldogs know where to start guarding on the perimeter. Then again they don't need to leave any openings for 6-5 Jonathan Hall to work inside the arc as he is scoring almost 14-per on 63% shooting. Junior Malcolm Elleby and soph Michael Davenport distribute the ball to those straight-shooters, and while the team is just in positive territory at 104 assists/100 turnovers, look at what their foes are (not) doing at a 59/95 such ratio. In fact St.B is averaging almost 19 points each game off turnovers, and Schmidt makes liberal use of his bench to keep the defensive pressure on.
Projected Starting Lineups:
ST. BONAVENTURE: F Da'Quan Cook, SO, 6-9 226, 4.2ppg, 2.2rpg; F Andrew Nicholson, SO 6-9 225, 16.3ppg, 8.5rpg, 2.3bpg; G Jonathan Hall, SR 6-5 220, 13.8ppg, 3.2apg; G Malcolm Eleby, JR 6-3 200, 5.7ppg, 4.3apg; G Chris Matthews, SR 6-4 212, 13.3ppg, 2.7rpg.
Top Backups: G Michael Davenport, SO, 6-4 196, 9.8ppg, 3.3apg; G Ogo Adegboye, JR, 6-0 177, 5.5ppg, 2.2apg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: G/F Top Backups: G HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 71.5ppg, St.B 74.7ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 62.3ppg, St.B 61.0ppg
FG Shooting: MSU 43.8%, St.B 55.1%
FG Defense: MSU 39.8%, St.B 40.8%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 38.7%, St.B 38.6%
3-point Attempts: MSU 142, St.B 83
Rebounding: MSU 40.0rpg, St.B 35.5rpg
Rebound Margin: MSU +8.3, St.B +8.5
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 71.4%, St.B 62.0%
Turnovers: MSU 13.0pg, St.B 16.7pg
BULLDOG NOTES: After leading the SEC in three-pointers for the regular 2008-09 season, and setting a program season record with 296, the Bulldogs hoped to balance out the offense better this winter. Yet so far these Dogs are taking more treys per-game than last year, 23.5 to 22.8.
*Through six games State has one less assist, 71, than the opposition; and five fewer steals.
*But these Bulldogs are crushing foes in shot-blocking as usual, by a three-to-one margin through six games. In fact the current 8.0 blocks per-game pace is ahead of last year's 7.5 rate all season. In 2007-08 the Bulldogs set the SEC record with 267 blocks in 34 games; then last year's team broke it with 271 in 36 games.
*Mississippi State's bench is providing 21% of the total points through six games. But, in the last two games sub-Dogs have twice provided double-digit outputs. Both times it was opening-game starter F Kodi Augustus (13, 10 points)
*A thin bench has meant Bulldog starters have played 74% of total minutes.
*Senior C Jarvis Varnado has been rightly-touted for his defensive prowess. Now he is about to achieve an offensive benchmark, needing just six more points to become the 31st member of the 1,000-Point Club at Mississippi State. He would join classmate G Barry Stewart in the group. Two years ago both played with another tandem of 1,000-Point Dogs on the same squad, G Jamont Gordon and F Charles Rhodes.
*Meanwhile Varnado keeps climbing the career-list for his specialty of shot-blocking. Two weeks ago he became the SEC's all-time swats leader, breaking the mark of 412 set by Shaquille O'Neal from 1990-92. Varnado currently has 427 blocks, in 111 games.
*He ranks 11th on the NCAA's career blocks record and with his first swat tomorrow joins the top-ten by catching former Penn Stater Calvin Booth's 428. The record is 535 by Louisiana-Monroe's Wojciech Mydra.
*Varnado has led the NCAA in total blocks both the past two seasons, and is the first two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
*Varnado has blocked a shot in his last 23 games, since failing to get one at home against LSU. Prior to that he had a block in 34-straight games dating back into his sophomore season.
*Varnado increased his scoring from '08 to '09 by a whole five points with a 12.9 rate for the junior season. He's off to a faster start this year averaging 14.5 points.
*Through six games Varnado has made 66.7% of his shots, compared to 55% of his junior-year attempts.
*Almost as remarkable was how Varnado went from a 50% free throw shooter as a soph to hitting 65% last season. And so far this senior year he's even better, at 68%.
*Through six games Varnado is averaging a double-double thanks to a 10.0 rebound rate.
*He didn't win SEC Freshman of the Year but PG Dee Bost deserved it after scoring 10.9 points and setting the MSU rookie record for assists with 156. He had to settle for Freshman All-SEC.
*Now as a soph Bost will bid for All-SEC outright and he's off to a strong start at 12.8 points. He is also best on the team in outside shooting with 16 treys and 49% accuracy.
*Bost' assist rate is a bit down from last year though, 4.33 to 4.17 per game.
*Bost went to the free throw line 170 times as a rookie and made 122 chances, both program freshman records. Well, his shooting of 73.1% this early year is even better than his 71.8% frosh rate.
*Bost has started all 42 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.
*WG Ravern Johnson had to be State's most-improved offensive player last year, jumping from 2.5 points as a 2008 frosh to 12.1 his soph season.
*Johnson has hit 14 treys this year with his accuracy just a bit down from last winter, from 39.5% to 38.9%.
*A 85% free throw marksman as a soph, Johnson has found his way to the stripe only once these six games. He did make it though.
*Johnson has never fouled out of a college game.
*Senior G Barry Stewart is one of two Bulldogs to make over 200 three-point goals. He is now up to 214 in 111 career games, chasing the record of 258 set by Darryl Wilson (1995-96).
*Stewart now stands 17th on the MSU career scoring list with 1,243 points, having just passed Erick Dampier.
*With 123 steals, Stewart is now 10th on the MSU career list.
*Since serving a two-game suspension, F Kodi Augustus has averaged almost 11 points off the bench and seven rebounds.
*Augustus' shooting has struggled at 3-of-11 the last two games, but he's worked his way to the foul line and gone 8-of-8 in each contest. For the year the junior is 16-of-17 at the stripe.
*In the ODU game, Augustus got his first assists (two) of the season.
*G/F Phil Turner has always surprised bigger foes on the boards. He's better than ever this junior season with a 7.0 rebound rate through six games, compared to 5.5 for all last season.
*C Elgin Bailey has worked back from a dreadful March ankle injury to give minutes off the bench three of the last four games. He has yet to make a shot or get a rebound though.