Bulldog Basketball Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (10-2) makes a brief return to the home court Monday, hosting Mississippi Valley State (1-11) in a 7:00 contest. There is no telecast scheduled. The broadcast is available on the MSU Network, as well as on XM channel 200.

*With campus empty and many fans otherwise occupied, special $5 tickets are available Monday. And high school-and-under ages can come watch college basketball for free.

*Mississippi State is on a seven-game winning streak, while Mississippi Valley State has lost their last nine games.

*Stansbury has won 123 non-conference regular season games in his Bulldog tenure, and 242 overall.

*Mississippi State is 17-2 playing against the SWAC, both losses coming thirty years ago.

*These ‘State' universities of Mississippi have played just twice, each time in Humphrey Coliseum and both times with the hosts winning. The Bulldogs took an easy 93-58 win in the 2000-01 regular season, but in March 2007 hosted the Delta Devils in a NIT round. That was a 82-63 success for State.

*Valley head coach Sean Woods has seen Humphrey Coliseum before, but as a player. He was a guard for Kentucky from 1989-92, on teams that went 1-3 on trips to Starkville back when the SEC played a double-round-robin.

About the Delta Devils: Here at the Scouting Report, we take pride in presenting even the worst opponents in a positive light. So here we go: this probably won't be the worst opponent Mississippi State has ever played. For that matter the Delta Devils might not even be the worst club in the SWAC these days, which is admittedly faint praise. The fact is that this matchup will only be as competitive as the Bulldogs allow because Mississippi Valley is as poor a program as their record shows. True, like many SWAC squads the Devils have played the role of invited victim to major league teams in November-December and there's not much wrong with losses to Washington State, Gonzaga, Iowa State, and Oregon. But this bunch has also lost to Liberty and Kennesaw State and it wasn't close. We can certainly see the answer to ‘how bad did Sean Woods want to be a head coach?' Improving on a 7-25 debut year is going to take work even in SWAC season if Woods can't find some sort of lineup able to score and defend. Not that he hasn't tried; big guard Shannon Behling is the lone Devil to start every game so far and he's not exactly a star. Senior Julius Cheeks has shouldered as much of the offensive load as he can carry, the lone D.D. averaging double-digits on the official stats…which are missing numbers from the last two games of course, but no matter. Cheeks is/was hitting 37% at the arc. The school's site doesn't say what happened to Tashan Newsome, who was providing nine points and four boards but has missed the last two (or more?) games and it just doesn't seem worth looking up at this point anyway. Sorry, the S.R. just can't come up with any more positiveness about this opponent. Let's just say this: the Bulldog record for points is 123 (vs. Troy State, 1995). If they are of a mind to, this State team could rewrite that mark.

Projected Starting Lineups:

MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE: F Darian Donald, JR 6-5 185, 1.0ppg, 1.4rpg; F Amos Sturdivant, SO 6-8 230, 4.2ppg, 3.2rpg; G Julius Cheeks, SR 6-2 190, 10.5ppg, 3.4rpg, 15 3ptrs; G Shannon Behling, JR 6-7 200, 8.8ppg, 4.6rpg; G Kevin Burwell, JR 6-10 185, 2.8ppg, 1.5rpg.

Top Backups: G/F Ricky Lamb, FR 6-6, 4.2ppg, 1.6rpg; F Jason Holmes, JR 6-9, 7.9ppg, 3.8rpg, 54% fgs.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, JR 6-8 220, 9.3ppg, 6.1rpg, 11 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SR 6-9, 13.7ppg, 10.6rpg, 62 blks; G/F Ravern Johnson, JR 6-7 175, 14.8ppg, 3.8rpg, 38 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SR 6-3 170, 12.1ppg, 2.8 asts, 25 3ptrs; PG Dee Bost, SO 6-2 170, 11.0ppg, 5.5 asts, 27 3ptrs.

Top Backups: G/F Phil Turner, JR 6-3 170, 5.4ppg, 4.9rpg; F Romero Osby, SO 6-8 230, 5.6ppg, 3.0rpg; G Riley Benock, JR 6-4 180, 2.8ppg, 10 3ptrs.

HOW THEY COMPARE:

Scoring: MSU 76.7, MVS 62.2

Scoring Defense: MSU 59.2, MVS 82.2

FG Shooting: MSU 47.0%, MVS 39.0%

FG Defense: MSU 35.8%, MVS 47.9%

3-Point Shooting: MSU 42.4%, MVS 30.8%

3-point Attempts: MSU 297, MVS 221

Rebounding: MSU 42.4, MVS 31.8

Rebound Margin: MSU +9.6, MVS -10.1

Free Throw Shooting: MSU 69.9%, MVS 61.9%

Turnovers: MSU 13.8, MVS 17.1

BULLDOG NOTES: And the beatings go on, as Mississippi State is playing superb defense in their winning streak. In the last seven victories the Bulldogs have allowed just 33.1% shooting (151 of 456). The best any of these victims has shot against MSU is 37.9% by Old Dominion, when State's streak began.

*In this run the Bulldogs have allowed only 56 points per-game. And the average margin of victory has been 24 points.

*Was it just last winter that State set the program record with 296 made-treys in 36 games? That mark won't last out this regular season as the current Bulldog team is on a scorching perimeter-pace, with 126 treys in 12 games. And the per-game attempts is ahead as well, 24.8 this year to 22.8 last season.

*This week State ranks second in the NCAA in made-treys and 9th in outside shooting.

*This team's overall 42.4% outside accuracy is a record pace, too, better than the 38.4% rate of the 1996 Final Four club.

*It's impressive enough that the Bulldogs are better than 4-to-1 in blocking shots, with 101 swats so far. But only 26 shots by State players have been rejected.

*The current team pace of 8.4 blocks is far ahead of last year's 7.5 rate when State broke their own SEC record for season swats at 271.

*State's 146 fouls in a dozen games is the fewest in the current NCAA stats.

*Coming back for a senior season has let C Jarvis Varnado get off to the best pre-SEC start of his career. He has raised his scoring from 12.9 points as a junior to 13.7; his rebounding from 8.8 to 10.6; and his shooting from 55% to 61%.

*Varnado is working to become the latest Dog to average a double-double for a season. The last to do so was Lawrence Roberts in 2005.

*Varnado has five double-doubles this senior season, and 20 for his career. He is one of three Dogs in history with a triple-double to his credit.

*Varnado's career 59.5% shooting is tied for third-best in MSU history, though he has been as high as second this season. The record is 63% by Bill Singletary (1970-72), though Varnado has made more field goals than Singletary attempted.

*But his season rate has dropped of late. After shooting 72% in a five-game stretch as the team's winning streak began, Varnado is 5-of-16 in the last two wins.

*At 1,071 points Varnado now ranks 29th in career MSU scoring, needing eight points to tie Larry Fry (1973-75) for the next rung on that ladder.

*And he is now one of the top-five Bulldog rebounders ever, at 854 boards. He has a great chance to surpass #4 Erick Dampier (859, 1994-96) Monday night.

*Varnado ‘only' blocked four balls in the Centenary game last week, but that was enough to push him into 4th place on the NCAA career list at 456 as he surpassed Alonzo Mourning of Georgetown. The all-time NCAA mark of 535 draws ever closer.

*And should he maintain his current rate of 5.2 per-game, the collegiate record will fall in late February. Last year Varnado averaged 4.7 blocks when he smashed the SEC season record with 170 swats.

*Varnado has blocked a shot in 29-straight games, since being blanked in the home game with LSU last February. Before that he had blocks in 34-straight games.

*Varnado has not fouled-out of a game so far this season.

*Junior G Ravern Johnson has just moved into the career top-ten for made treys with 128, having just passed Antonio Johnson (2000-01) for 10th place. His next threeball will tie Johnson for 9th place with Jamont Gordon (2006-08).

*Johnson has stuck at least two treys every game this season, and last week popped five against Centenary. He has 38 threeballs in 12 games. If he maintains this pace, the season record of 97 (Darryl Wilson 1996) will fall.

*Before going 3-of-10 at the arc against Houston, Johnson had hit exactly 50% of his long shots this season. He bounced back nicely, going 5-of-8 against CU.

*Johnson's 48.7% shooting at the arc this year is better than the program record of 48.1% by Shane Power in 2004. And his career 41.0% is second only to the 41.7% of Power in his two years.

*For six games his coaches urged Johnson to make his way to the foul line. In the last two contests he has, and made all five attempts.

*Johnson still has never fouled out of a college game. In fact he has just 12 personals through 12 games and only two in the last four games.

*But he is getting more aggressive on the boards, with 19 rebounds in the last four games. Two of them were actually offensive boards!

*Johnson has not made a steal since November 24.

*Soph PG Dee Bost was mired in a shooting and scoring slump, with 13 points in a three-game stretch. He's getting back on-form now, with 15 and 10 points in the last two outings and 8-of-17 shooting.

*Where Bost has never cooled down is getting the ball to teammates in scoring positions. Bost has 23 assists in the last three games, and 66 for the season. His per-game pace of 5.5 is far ahead of the 4.3 last winter when he set a program freshman record.

*With 222 assists in two years Bost is on track to crack the career top-ten in 2010. He needs 314 to tie Ray White (1975-79) for the 10th spot.

*And what's gotten into Bost as far as board-work? The point guard has attacked the glass with vigor, getting six rebounds in each of the last three games and raising his season average to 4.9.

*Bost has started all 48 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.

*Though his team has been winning mostly-easily, senior G Barry Stewart has played 30 or more minutes every game this season, and averaged 35 minutes the last four games.

*But the old Dog isn't complaining about the workload. And with 3,603 career minutes on the resume Stewart is on-pace to break the program record of 3,851 set by Jeff Malone (1980-83, 110 games).

*Stewart, and classmate Varnado, are equally closing in on another MSU record. Both have played in 117 career games, and the standard is 127 by Derrick Zimmerman (2000-03).

*Wrist and elbow pains took an early-season toll on Stewart's shooting, which was 36% through nine games. Now in the last three outings he has hit 19-of-33 shots and gone 8-of-16 at the arc.

*Stewart has 33 assists this season against just 12 turnovers.

*Stewart now owns 1,323 career points and is 12th on the MSU scoring list.

*One of only two Dogs with over 200 career treys, Stewart (227) keeps inching closer to the record of 258 by Darryl Wilson.

*With 128 steals, Stewart is now alone in 8th on the career list having just passed Al Perry (1975-78).

*Stewart is getting close to top-ten career status in made free throws. He has 292 and needs five more to tie Jerry Jenkins (1973-75) for 10th place.

*Stewart has blocked as many shots as the #22 he wears on the jersey.

*Junior F Kodi Augustus has as many longballs this year, 11, as he had all last season. And his 52.4% shooting at the arc is best on this team.

*After scoring double-digits in a four-game run, Augustus has been in single-digits the last four games and averaged 6.0 points. He is 3-of-9 at the arc in this stretch.

*Augustus had 16 rebounds in just 20 minutes against Houston, a career-high.

*The Centenary game turned one trend in a better direction. Having had 21 turnovers and four assists in the previous nine games, Augustus had three assists and just one giveaway against Centenary.

*Other than Johnson, the Dog most comfortable at the foul-stripe is G/F Phil Turner. He's 12-of-13 there this year.

*But his outside shooting touch has been off this year, as Turner is just 7-of-30 on trey-tries for the year and 1-of-the-last-17.

*Turner hasn't turned the ball over in the last four games.

*With State riding Varnado as long as possible, freshman C Wendell Lewis has played just 23 minutes in the last four games.

*But the freshman has not missed a shot since December 10, making his last five attempts.

*Junior G Riley Benock knows where he likes to shoot from. He has attempted 26 shots this year, 23 of them from beyond the arc. And he's made 10 treys out of 12 total field goals.

*After playing just 19 minutes in three games, soph F Romero Osby put in 17 minutes against Centenary and scored eight points.

*Osby has hit half his trey-tries this year, 7-of-14.


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