Bulldog Basketball Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (18-8, 6-5 SEC) returns to road play and Division competition, taking on Louisiana State (9-16, 0-11 SEC) Saturday in Baton Rouge. Game time is 3:00 from the Assembly Center with telecast by the SEC Network and broadcast on XM channel 199.

*The Bulldogs are coming off a three-game SEC home stand, longest of the schedule, that began well but ended with a frustrating overtime loss to league-leader Kentucky. That, and Arkansas' home win over South Carolina, has Mississippi State again a game-back of the 7-4 Razorbacks in the West standings. Both are 5-2 in Division play.

*Coach Rick Stansbury is going for his 250th career victory. He is the 20th SEC coach to score 100 regular-season league wins.

*State already owns one win this season over the Tigers, a 67-51 victory in Starkville on January 30.

*LSU still has a 103-94 lead in the series, and is 64-33 playing in Baton Rouge though State took games there in both 2007 and '08. Rick Stansbury is 15-11 against the Tigers, the second-most wins for State's coach in a SEC rivalry only to his 18 over Ole Miss.

About the Tigers: The answer is, no. There has never been a SEC champion one season go winless in the league the next. But there is precedent for a first-to-worst set by…well, well, by the 2000 and '01 Tigers who went from co-champs one year to dead-last the next. Or for that matter LSU's 2006 overall champs that in '07 brought up the West-rear. Point being, such radical cycles are nothing new in Baton Rouge. Still this one is the most drastic yet, and the twist is Trent Johnson saw it coming even as his debut Tiger team marched to their 2009 regular-season title. In fact he might not even have thought his second squad would be this competitive, so to speak, as Tasmin Mitchell was expected to leave with most of the other starters. Maybe it was a good choice stats-wise because the senior forward literally has to do everything himself; the numbers don't really express his true dominance of this gameplan. Maybe the SEC should come up with some special In Face of Futility Award in the post-season honors list. Junior guard Bo Spencer does what he can to help and has taken the lead in outside shooting and assists. More numbers: he and Mitchell together account for literally just over half of all shots taken by the team this winter, not to mention 64% of made-treys. Maybe due to their pure exhaustion somebody else has to take a few turns and soph Storm Warren is scoring a dozen points-per besides leading in blocks…not that he makes a lot of difference there since LSU is shredded for the most three-pointers of any SEC defense. Oh yes, it gets worse: last in SEC scoring, last in shooting overall, maybe beyond last in three-point shooting and rebounding if that's possible. Steals, assists/turnovers, ditto. Johnson has done about all the lineup shuffling possible, and both Zach Kinsley and Aaron Dotson do take turns tossing up longballs and at times making a few. Very few. Yep, it's a lost winter in Baton Rouge…but it also is not over. And for any who would take a trip to the PMAC for-granted, all that history cited above offers a warning. There has not been a SEC squad go winless in league play since 1954. So odds are at least one of the remaining five foes on the regular season slate will pay the price of LSU's best effort. Plus they've had all week to rest-up for this particular matchup. Hmmm…

Projected Starting Lineups:

LSU: F Tasmin Mitchell, SR 6-7 245, 17.3ppg, 9.6rpg, 21 3ptrs; F Storm Warren, SO 6-7 230, 12.0ppg, 7.3ppg, 34 blks; G Bo Spencer, JR 6-2 185, 15.1ppg, 48 3ptrs, 64 asts; G Chris Bass, SO 6-1 185, 2.6ppg, 2.4rpg; F Dennis Harris, FR 6-11 190, 4.2ppg, 2.7rpg.

Top Backups: G/F Zach Kinsley, SO 6-5 210, 3.7ppg, 15 3ptrs; G Aaron Dotson, FR 6-4 205, 3.2ppg, 1.8rpg.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, JR 6-8 220, 9.2ppg, 5.6rpg, 25 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SR 6-9, 13.2ppg, 11.3rpg, 127 blks; G/F Ravern Johnson, JR 6-7 175, 13.7ppg, 3.4rpg, 65 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SR 6-3 170, 11.6ppg, 64 asts, 55 3ptrs; PG Dee Bost, SO 6-2 170, 12.4ppg, 133 asts, 46 3ptrs.

Top Backups: G/F Phil Turner, JR 6-3 170, 6.2ppg, 4.8rpg; F Romero Osby, SO 6-8 230, 5.1ppg, 2.8rpg; G Riley Benock, JR 6-4 180, 1.6ppg, 12 3ptrs.

HOW THEY COMPARE (Full Season Stats):

Scoring: MSU 73.3, LSU 62.6

Scoring Defense: MSU 63.3, LSU 67.7

FG Shooting: MSU 43.2%, LSU 40.6%

FG Defense: MSU 37.2%, LSU 43.3%

3-Point Shooting: MSU 36.1%, LSU 27.9%

3-point Attempts: MSU 554, LSU 387

Rebounding: MSU 41.2, LSU 36.1

Rebound Margin: MSU +4.0, LSU +1.0

Free Throw Shooting: MSU 68.1%, LSU 69.1%

Turnovers: MSU , 13.1, LSU 12.8

BULLDOG NOTES: G Barry Stewart and C Jarvis Varnado hold the program record for career games played with 131 and counting in four seasons. They erased the mark set in 2003 of 127 by Derrick Zimmerman.

*Live by the longball, or lose by lack thereof. That is the Mississippi State offense this SEC season. In their six wins the Bulldogs are 52-of-150 at the arc, or 35%. In the losses they are 34-of-136 or 25%.

*Whether the shooting runs hot or cold, Dog defense has been consistent as no SEC foe has reached 45% shooting and six were held under 40%. Perimeter defense is even more impressive at 29.4% for SEC season with only 65 treys allowed in 11 games.

*Dog defense has centered around shot-blocking much of the year, but only two Kentucky balls were rejected; lowest since the Richmond game in November with just one block. State is still averaging 7.9 blocks per-game for the year, better than the 7.5 pace of last year when those Dogs set the SEC season record with 271 in 36 games.

*C Jarvis Varnado got both those blocks against UK, despite playing only 23 minutes before fouling-out. It was his second DQ of the season; at Vanderbilt was the other. He fouled out eight times in his first three college seasons.

*Varnado now has 521 career blocks, 14 away from matching the NCAA career record. This mark could fall as early as next week's home game with Alabama, and no later than a week from Saturday at South Carolina.

*Varnado is averaging 4.9 blocks per-game at the moment. Last year when he set the SEC season record of 170 blocks he swatted 4.7 each game.

*He has blocked as shot in 43-straight games now.

*Obviously his offensive chances were limited by a short night's work Thursday. Still Varnado got to double-digits scoring for the sixth-straight game with 10 points. But he only had time to snare five rebounds, snapping is string of double-doubles. The senior center has 15 D-Ds for the year and 30 for his career.

*And he made half his eight shots, meaning Varnado has shot 57% in the last three games. In State's league wins he is 31-of-54; in the losses he is 22-of-56.

*With 1,249 career points Varnado now ranks 16th on the MSU list, having just passed Jerry Graves (1,235 1959-61). Eight more points would catch up with Jack Bouldin (1,257 1970-72) for top-15 status.

*The SEC's leading rebounder, Varnado has 288 for the year and is closing in on his second 300-board season. He is third on the MSU career rebounds list with 1,015. It will take 1,092 to catch Rickey Brown (1977-80) for second place.

*He is the third Bulldog ever with 1,000 rebounds, joining Bailey Howell (1957-59) and Brown as the only other State players with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

*But Varnado is not just the only Bulldog with a double-thousand and 500 career blocks; he's the only known NCAA player to ever reach this statistical plateau.

*Senior G Barry Stewart now has made 257 three-pointers in his career, and the next trey he makes will tie the MSU record held since 1996 by Darryl Wilson. His 711 career attempts already are the MSU record.

*Stewart is the only Bulldog to score double-digits in all eleven SEC games.

*And this has pushed him into the elite company of Mississippi State's top-ten career scorers. With 1,479 points in four seasons Stewart is #10 on the list. A typical offensive afternoon Saturday will catch him up with Tony Watts (1,491 1989-92) for 9th place.

*Stewart's five steals against Kentucky matched his career high, and gives him 150 for his career. That is 5th most in MSU history.

*Stewart is the only Bulldog ever to play 4,000 career minutes. He now has put in 4,094 minutes in four seasons.

*Stewart has played 41 and 40 minutes these two overtime games.

*A 74% career free-throw shooter, Stewart has made 316 chances at the stripe; 9th most in MSU history. His 427 attempts are 6th most.

*His first job priority is distributing the ball, and PG Dee Bost has issued 17 assists in the last four games.

*That gives him 133 for the year. And in just two seasons Bost has been credited with 289 scoring passes. He's on the fast-track to reach the MSU career top ten (314 is the target) as a sophomore. He holds the freshman class record with 156 assists.

*No wonder many defenses would rather risk him shooting the ball rather than pass it off. Bost has obliged by taking 40 shots in the last two overtime games and made 20 of them.

*His 54 combined points last week was the most productive stretch of his young career, and pushed his SEC scoring average to 14.7 points.

*But after scorching Auburn at the arc with 7-of-12 shooting, Bost was 2-of-10 against Kentucky on longballs. Take away the Auburn outing and Bost is 11-of-44 in SEC season.

*Bost has started all 62 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.

*A suspension for what his coach would only call "attitude" reasons confined G Ravern Johnson to the bench for the first time since February 27, 2008 as a freshman.

*Sitting out the UK game allowed Bost to move past Johnson on the team's SEC scoring standing.

*Johnson had been heating-up from the arc the previous two games, shooting 6-of-11 and scoring 38 total points. He had to leave the Auburn game early in the second half after a blow to the face, and was 1-of-5 on longballs at the time.

*Though he's just shooting 33% at the arc in SEC season, Johnson has hit 30-of-48 tries inside the arc.

*Johnson still has made 65 treys this junior season, though his chances of catching Darryl Wilson's record of 97 (1996) for the year are fading.

*Johnson now has 155 treys in three seasons and is 8th already on the MSU career list. Next-up is the 160 by Winsome Frazier (2002-05).

*More late-February playing time has allowed F Romero Osby to make contributions on offense, with 25 points the last three games. He made his first college start Thursday at small-forward and played a career-high 38 minutes.

*This was after he played 24 minutes against Auburn and scored 11 points.

*His four assists Thursday was a season-high.

*Osby is 9-of-12 at the free throw line the last three games. Before that he had taken just seven free throw attempts in the previous eight SEC games.

*PF Kodi Augustus rose to the occasion Thursday. Forced into the post when Varnado sat, he responded with 17 points; most of his SEC season.

*Of course most of that scoring came from well-beyond the pivot as the junior threw in four three-pointers, also a season-most. This was after he had gone 4-of-28 at the arc in the previous ten SEC games.

*Battling against bigger bodies Augustus still got to five rebounds, giving him a dozen boards in the last two overtime games.

*G/F Phil Turner hit a trey against Kentucky, his first made-three of February.

*Turner's most productive offensive spot is the free throw line. He is 24-of-27 there in SEC play and was 4-of-4 against Auburn.

*State's five starters and two primary alternates account for all but 10 of the points scored in SEC season.

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