*The last and for that matter only time Bulldogs played DePaul was also on a neutral court and in a December tournament; the 1988 Sugar Bowl Classic in the Louisiana Superdome. DePaul won that game 62-60.
*Though this is a neutral-site meeting, Bulldog veterans are familiar—and fond—of the SPT Forum. It was on this court State went on a four-game tear last March to win the SEC Tournament Championship. Eleven members of this winter's roster saw action in at least one of those four wins.
*Coach Rick Stansbury has scored 126 career victories against non-conference opponents, with a 75% winning percentage in such games both regular- and post-season.
About the Blue Demons: The name might still ring a few memory-bells among elders, but it has been some time since DePaul could claim some of the hardcourt spotlight. And that time hasn't been kind as conference alignments and network contracts have left the Chicago (technically Lincoln Park) college playing catchup. Former Richmond and UNC-Wilmington head coach Jerry Wainwright took on the challenge four seasons ago and it has been an uphill battle with just one NIT trip and a 20-48 Big East record including last winter's 0-18 agony. And until knocking off Columbia in November the Blue Demons had lost 18-straight regular season games. Hey, gotta start somewhere, and to their credit the Demons have put a more competitive club on the court this early-season. They certainly gave Tennessee a wake-up call last month and more recently put up a scrap with Vanderbilt. But DePaul has also taken a major pre-conference hit with a foot injury sidelining forward/center Mac Koshwal for up to four weeks. In his three games the 6-10 junior was averaging a double-double at 15 points, 13 rebounds; now there is a huge void in the lineup and the low post as Wainwright has to go small and try to keep clear of Mississippi State shot-blockers. Senior guard Bill Walker is taking on an even bigger share of the scoring load and giving 17 points-per as essentially the team's only proven outside shooter though sub-guard Michael Bizoukas is being worked into that role more. Lack of quick scoring punch has the Demons playing a patient pace, rather than trying the up-tempo approach State would with a four-guard set. This does shorten the game and minimize turnover totals, but also means every shot must count…and that's a problem for a team shooting just 40%. No Demon has more than 19 assists, either. Rebounding is an obvious weak point here, but most startlingly DePaul is making less than 54% of their free throws. Unless Koshwal gets well quick it could be another long winter in Chicago.
Projected Starting Lineups:
DePAUL: F Eric Wallace, SO 6-6 215, 8.3ppg, 6.0rpg; F/C Devin Hill, SO 6-9 200, 4.0ppg, 3.3rpg; G Mike Stovall, JR 6-4 200, 4.4ppg, 2.1rpg; G Jeremiah Kelly, SO 6-1 170, 6.7ppg, 3.6rpg; G Bill Walker, SR 6-0 190, 17.3ppg, 14 3ptrs
Top Backups: G Michael Bizoukas, SO 6-1 175, 3.3ppg; F Mario Stula, JR 6-7 210, 2.7ppg, 2.0rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, JR 6-8 220, 11.6ppg, 6.2rpg, 6 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SR 6-9, 14.4ppg, 9.7rpg, 37 blks; G/F Ravern Johnson, JR 6-7 175, 12.4ppg, 3.3rpg, 18 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SR 6-3 170, 11.1ppg, 21asts, 13 3ptrs; PG Dee Bost, SO 6-2 170, 13.4ppg, 32 asts, 21 3ptrs.
Top Backups: G/F Phil Turner, JR 6-3 170, 6.1ppg, 6.0rpg; F Romero Osby, SO 6-8 230, 4.9ppg, 3.1rpg; G Riley Benock, JR 6-4 180, 2.3ppg, 4 3ptrs.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 76.3ppg, DU 58.6ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 61.0ppg, DU 56.6ppg
FG Shooting: MSU 46.2%, DU 40.3%
FG Defense: MSU 38.7%, DU 38.6%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 41.8%, DU 29.5%
3-point Attempts: MSU 170, DU 112
Rebounding: MSU 40.6rpg, DU 34.4rpg
Rebound Margin: MSU +9.0, DU -1.4
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 71.4%, DU 53.7%
Turnovers: MSU 12.7, DU 9.7
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, 24.3 to 22.8.
*The 16 made-treys in the St. Bonaventure game matched the program record, previously equaled last February at home against Arkansas.
*The three Dogs with double-digit treys so far are collectively shooting 43% from the arc.
*The four Dogs with double-digit made free throws are a combined 75% at the stripe.
*All five Bulldogs who started the last game are now averaging double-digit scoring.
*As usual, State is crushing pre-conference competition in shot blocking with almost a three-to-one margin, 58 to 20.
*The current team pace of 8.3 blocks is ahead of last year's 7.5 rate when State broke their own SEC record for season swats at 271.
*Four Bulldogs have started all seven games; the other two starts have been split between F Kodi Augustus and G/F Phil Turner.
*For those who thought opponents might shy away from challenging senior C Jarvis Varnado, nope, they're still trying to score over him. And failing even more often. Varnado's 5.3 blocks pace through seven games this year is way ahead of his junior season average of 4.7 blocks.
*The SEC's all-time swats leader with 431, Varnado needs to average 4.3 blocks the rest of this season to set the NCAA record which currently stands at 535. Varnado ranks 9th on the all-time college chart already.
*Varnado has blocked a shot in 24-straight games, since being blanked in the home game with LSU last February. Before that he had blocks in 34-straight games.
*Saturday, Varnado became the 31st Bulldog in the 1,000-Point Club. He now has 1,008 in 112 career games, 34 points behind Greg Lockhart (1986-89) for 31st place.
*After raising his scoring average from 7.9 as a soph to 12.9 as a junior, Varnado is putting up 14.4 points so far this senior season. And his early-season shooting is a career-best 67.3%, compared to 55% for all last winter.
*Varnado is also having the best year of his career at the foul stripe at 69.3%, after going 65% last season.
*Varnado needs five more rebounds to reach 800. He already ranks 7th on the MSU career list for boardwork.
*Varnado has three double-doubles for this season. He had eight as a junior and owns 18 for his career. And, is one of three Dogs in history with a triple-double to his credit.
*G Dee Bost burst onto the SEC scene as both a play- and shot-making freshman. He hasn't slowed the pace as a sophomore either. His scoring is up from 10.9 points to 13.4, second-best on the squad; and his assists average of 4.6 is ahead of the 4.33 rate of the rookie year.
*Bost has scored double-digits in six of seven games. His 25 markers against Old Dominion matched his young career-high of 25 at home against Arkansas last year.
*Bost is topping the team in treys with 21, or three per-game. Last year he contributed 1.5 treys a night.
*Bost set the MSU freshman class record for assists with 156, as well as for free throws made and attempted. As a soph he's shooting even better from the stripe, 73.1% to 71.8%.
*Bost has started all 43 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.
*G Ravern Johnson is pushing Bost on the perimeter with 18 treys, and now has 108 for his three-season career. He needs 124 to crack the career top-ten.
*But Johnson's 39.1% career marksmanship at the arc is fourth-best in program history.
*State needs Johnson to get to the foul-stripe more often as he his a 85% career shooter there. He has attempted just one free shot through seven juniors games…and made it of course.
*Johnson has never fouled out of a college game.
*His rebounding rate is up a bit this year, to 3.3 boards after nabbing 3.1 as a sophomore.
*Senior G Barry Stewart is one of two Bulldogs to make over 200 three-point goals. He is now up to 215 in 112 career games, chasing the record of 258 set by Darryl Wilson (1995-96).
*Stewart now stands 16th on the MSU career scoring list with 1,256 points, having just passed Jerry Graves (1959-61). He needs one more marker to catch Jack Bouldin (1970-72) for a 15th-place tie.
*With 123 steals, Stewart is now 10th on the MSU career list.
*Stewart is getting close to top-ten career status in made free throws. He has 285 and needs 297 to tie Jerry Jenkins (1973-75) for 10th place.
*Stewart is on a six-game streak of double-figure scoring. He had an 11-game string of 10 or more points last season.
*Since serving his two-game suspension, F Kodi Augustus has produced on the court with three double-digit performances raising his season scoring to 11.1 points.
*The junior has also gotten 18 rebounds in this short span, and he is now the team's #2 rebounder at 6.2-per. He got just 3.4 boards per-game as a sophomore.
*Folk already knew Augustus could make free throws, with a 79% accuracy last winter. But since suspension he has been brilliant at the stripe going 22-of-24. For the year he is making 88% of foul shots.
*Augustus has gotten 38% of his points this year on free throws, far ahead of even Varnado at 28%.
*G/F Phil Turner has always surprised bigger foes on the boards. He's better than ever this junior season with a 6.0 rebound rate through seven games, compared to 5.5 for all last season.
*G Riley Benock was 1-of-10 at the arc through six games as he comes back from a leg injury. Then he went 3-of-4 against St. Bonaventure for a season-best nine points.
*Benock's five assists the last game more than matched the two in his first six games.