Bulldog Basketball Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (16-5, 4-2 SEC) opens a week of inter-Division contests on the road, traveling to Vanderbilt (16-4, 5-1 SEC) for a Wednesday evening matchup. Game time at legendary Memorial Gymnasium is 7:00 for SEC Network telecast. The broadcast is on XM channel 200.

*Mississippi State is back on top of the Western Division after knocking off Louisiana State to stop a two-game skid, a game ahead of 4-3 Ole Miss after the Rebels fell at Arkansas. Vanderbilt was briefly alone in front of the East before their weekend loss to Kentucky pulled them back into a tie on that side with the Wildcats.

*Vanderbilt is 10-0 at home so far this season. The Bulldogs are 1-2 in league road games.

*These teams played two common pre-SEC opponents. Both defeated DePaul, and both lost to Western Kentucky.

*But they have faced just one common SEC team so far. Vanderbilt won a one-point nailbiter at Alabama, while State lost at Tuscaloosa ten days later.

*With last Saturday's success, Rick Stansbury is now the 20th SEC head coach to win 100 regular-season league games. In one less season, Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings has 77 SEC wins.

*Stansbury is 9-5 against Vanderbilt, though 1-2 in SEC Tournament games with the Commodores. State has played VU 11 times in league tourneys.

*Wednesday night, seniors Barry Stewart and Jarvis Varnado will tie for the most games-played in program history. They are one-shy of the career record of 127 held since 2003 by Derrick Zimmerman.

About the Commodores: Hard to believe, eh, that Kevin Stallings has begun his second decade in charge of Vanderbilt hoops? And the first ten seasons were impressive enough with three NCAA appearances, twice reaching the Sweet 16, and four more NIT trips. All that's missing are SEC titles, with the closest call to a crown the 2007 team tying for second in the East. This might be the club to fill that gap in the resume, too; certainly it is the most veteran roster in the league with 11 veterans and all four of the leading scorers back. And as the first-month conference stats prove, these ‘Dores can surely score with a 81.3-point clip for league play. Their 51.1% SEC shooting is also best as of this week, the only club making more than half their league shots. Such accuracy is possible when three starters are hitting 53%, 54%, and 63% for the whole season. Not that leader Andre Walker takes a lot of shots as his 6-to-7 point average shows, but he's always there to pick up the easy basket when defenses chase others and is the leading rebounder for SEC season so far at 7.5 boards. Most obviously junior A.J. Ogilvy, who became the first ‘Dore to reach 1,000 points in two seasons. Interestingly his scoring is down from 15.4 points last season and he has not put up a three-point try all season, but this just reflects the more capable cohorts he has in the frontcourt. At crunch time he's the big man to get the ball and do something with it. Jeffrey Taylor was good as a freshman at 12.2 points and is a more accomplished forward in his second campaign, too. It's key to note too that while their all-season rebound numbers are just OK, the averages in SEC action are markedly higher. Any notions that Vanderbilt is a ‘finesse' program are painfully out-of-date these days. Even the guards can mix it up around the goal or in the open court. Jermaine Beal was already a league-leader with the best assist/turnover rate among SEC guards for his first two seasons. Now he's a more aggressive shooter and scorer and has even fouled-out of a game (!). Brad Tinsley gets the starting call at off-guard and will hit the longball, but the real marksman comes off the bench as John Jenkins has stuck 46 treys at a 48% clip in his rookie season. So this squad not only has experience but has depth everywhere, such as vastly-improved center Festus Ezeli who does more than eat space and block shots. Weaknesses? Well, the ‘Dores do give up a lot of points, a SEC-season worst 77.5-per, and they've allowed 41% three-point shooting. They don't go after many steals either, and free throw shooting is not as automatic as we've seen in the past. Those are the details that can catch up with a club over a long haul and stop them short of championships…but nothing a visiting team can count on when entering these historic confines. Let them pick off a few road games and Vanderbilt might just get their first SEC title since 1993.

Projected Starting Lineups:

VANDERBILT: F Jeffrey Taylor, SO 6-7 210, 13.9ppg, 5.2rpg, 54%fgs; F Andre Walker, SO 6-7 220, 6.5ppg, 5.6rpg, 63%fgs; C A.J. Ogilvy, JR 6-11 250, 13.8ppg, 6.0rpg, 33 blks; G Jermaine Beal, SR 6-3 205, 14.0ppg, 43 3ptrs, 61 asts; G Brad Tinsley, SO 6-3 210, 7.1ppg, 2.7rpg, 20 3ptrs.

Top Backups: G John Jenkins, FR 6-4 215, 10.8ppg, 46 3ptrs, 48?gs; C Festus Ezeli, SO 6-11 255, 4.2ppg, 3.2rpg, 31 blks.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, JR 6-8 220, 8.9ppg, 5.9rpg, 20 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SR 6-9, 13.5ppg, 11.1rpg, 106 blks; G/F Ravern Johnson, JR 6-7 175, 14.0ppg, 3.7rpg, 56 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SR 6-3 170, 11.2ppg, 47 asts, 40 3ptrs; PG Dee Bost, SO 6-2 170, 11.4ppg, 113 asts, 32 3ptrs.

Top Backups: G/F Phil Turner, JR 6-3 170, 6.2ppg, 4.9rpg; F Romero Osby, SO 6-8 230, 4.8ppg, 2.9rpg; G Riley Benock, JR 6-4 180, 1.9ppg, 12 3ptrs.

HOW THEY COMPARE (Full Season Stats):

Scoring: MSU 73.4 VAN 79.1

Scoring Defense: MSU 61.0, VAN 67.8

FG Shooting: MSU 44.0%, VAN 49.7%

FG Defense: MSU 36.5%, VAN 40.6%

3-Point Shooting: MSU 37.7%, VAN 37.0%

3-point Attempts: MSU 499, VAN 343

Rebounding: MSU 41.7, VAN 36.7

Rebound Margin: MSU +6.2, VAN +1.5

Free Throw Shooting: MSU 68.3%, VAN 69.3%

Turnovers: MSU 13.2, VAN 14.1

BULLDOG NOTES: In their first three SEC games, all wins, the Dogs hit 26 treys in 70 tries. In the next three games though they are 18-of-66 at the arc, or 27%. In fact the three opponents have made the exact same number of treys in 55 tries, or 33%.

*Despite this slump, these Bulldogs are still knocking down just under nine treys-per game. That's better than the 8.2 rate of last year's team that set the program record with 296 made-treys, in 36 games.

*The slump extends closer to the goal too, as State is shooting just 39% as a whole through six league games. Fortunately the 38.6% shooting allowed is still second-best in the SEC, and the overall season defense ranks #3 nationally.

*And an obvious reason Dog defense remains strong is a league-best 8.8 blocks per game, 8.3 for the entire season which ranks #2 in the NCAA again this week.

*The Bulldogs have 74 turnovers against 64 assists for league season so far.

*By no coincidence, C Jarvis Varnado is also #2 in the NCAA's updated per-game blocks standard at 5.0 for the year. The more meaningful list of course is his pursuit of the NCAA career record for blocks, 535. Varnado now owns exactly 500 for his four seasons, again #2 on a list; which means at this current pace he would reach the mark in seven more games.

*He has blocked a shot in 38 straight games now.

*With 1,190 points Varnado is closing in on top-twenty career status. He needs 29 points to catch a pair tied in 20th place now, Dave Williams (1966-68) and Leland Mitchell (1961-63) at 1,219.

*Varnado remains the SEC's leading rebounder and is 10th nationally at the moment. He has gotten to double-digit rebounds in seven of the last eight games.

*Varnado has eleven double-doubles this senior season, and 26 for his career. He is bidding to become the next Bulldog to average a double-double for a season, first since Lawrence Roberts in 2005.

*He has two of the four recorded triple-doubles in program history.

*SEC season has brought a slump in Varnado's shooting though. He was making almost 65% in pre-conference play, but in six SEC games has shot just 46%. He is 8-of-22 from the field in MSU league losses, 18-of-29 in wins.

*With 960 career boards Varnado is just four behind Wiley Peck (1975-79) for third place on the MSU list. He is on track to become only the third Bulldogs with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, joining Bailey Howell (1957-59) and Rickey Brown (1977-80).

*Varnado has been to the foul line 434 times. He needs 456 to make the MSU top-ten.

*Despite his recent struggles, G/F Ravern Johnson is still second in the SEC and 13th nationally in three-point shooting for the year at 43.4%. But in SEC play he is down to 28% in six games and 3-of-22 in the last four contests.

*This has slowed Johnson's chances of becoming the first Bulldog to hit 100 treys in a season. He now has 56 in 21 games. The annual record is 97 by Darryl Wilson (1996) in 34 games.

*His 146 makes in three years already rank him 8th on the MSU career list.

*With the long-shooting in a slump, Johnson has worked closer to the rim for his points and shot 14-of-19 inside the arc the last two games.

*Johnson still has never fouled out of a college game, but he's pushed that luck a little lately with three fouls in both the last two contests.

*He has just 11 assists in 21 games this season, but 15 blocked shots.

*But Johnson is red-hot shooting compared to the problems PG Dee Bost has had in SEC season, where he is 36% overall and 17% at the arc. He has missed his last 13 outside attempts.

*After scoring double-digits in six-straight games, he has mustered eight and two points the last two contests.

*Fortunately State's quarterback is distributing as well as ever, with a 5.4 assists average that is 3rd-best in the SEC and 33rd nationally.

*Bost has 113 assists for the sophomore season after setting the MSU freshman record with 156. He is on-track to reach the career top-ten here in just two years, needing 314 assists to get there.

*Bost has started all 57 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.

*Senior G Barry Stewart now holds the MSU record for career minutes, with exactly 3,900 as of his 126th college game. He broke the mark of 3,851 by Jeff Malone (110 games) that had stood since 1983.

*Though he would like to be shooting better, Stewart has scored double-digits in all six SEC games to average 11.5 in league play.

*He has hit 5-of-11 at the arc the last two games and has 40 treys for the season.

*That moves him a little closer to the career trey record; Stewart has 242 in four seasons and is chasing the record of 258 hit in three years by Darryl Wilson (1994-96). Stewart's 668 attempts at the arc is the MSU record already.

*He now has 1,414 career points to rank 12th on the MSU list, needing 1,451 to catch Charles Rhodes (2005-08) for 11th and 1,461 to take top-ten status.

*Stewart has made 310 career free throws, 9th-most in MSU history; and he has made 74% of his chances.

*He ranks 9th in career steals with 138 and is one back of Terry Lewis (1980-83) for 8th place.

*After going 2-of-10 shooting in two State losses, G/F Phil Turner was 3-of-7 in the win over LSU.

*And he was 4-of-5 at the stripe Saturday, making him 15-of-17 for SEC season and 35-of-42 for the year.

*With 12 points against the Tigers, Turner had his fourth double-digit game of the year.

*Junior PF Kodi Augustus has 42 rebounds in six SEC games, second-best on the squad.

*Augustus is 20-for-22 at the foul line in SEC season, which this week leads the league.

*G Riley Benock took just two shots in a stretch of six games. Now in the last two games he has put up seven tries and made two, all from the arc. Of his 36 shots all season, 33 have been longball attempts with a dozen makes.

*F Romero Osby barely played at Arkansas and took just one shot. Given 15 minutes against LSU he provided five points on 2-of-5 shooting with his 10th trey of the year.

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