Note: VandyMania basketball writer Samuel Sabulis is on vacation.
Vandy's last game
Vanderbilt (24-5, 9-5 SEC) played well in hostile Bud Walton Arena before losing 78-73 to a talented Arkansas Razorback squad. Vandy took the lead late in the game but costly mistakes in the final minute of play negated a good Commodore effort. Shan Foster scored 22 points to be Vandy's all time leading career scorer. Freshman post A.J. Ogilvy added 20 points and 6 rebounds.
After starting out the season at 5-5 the Mississippi State Bulldogs have reeled off 15 wins in their last 18 games to win their fourth SEC West crown in the past six seasons. On Saturday the Bulldogs (20-8, 11-3 SEC) took the lead over Florida just two minutes into the game and never look back as they used a stifling defense to cruise to a 68-59 victory. Guard Ben Hansbrough led the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 while forward Charles Rhodes added 15. Tennessee native Jarvis Varnado added 11 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocked shots.
Barry Stewart (6-2, 170), who played for Shelbyville Central High School, is a talented guard for the Bulldogs. The sophomore is MSU's third leading scorer averaging a dozen points a game and is dishing out over two assists a game. He scored 21 points in the Bulldogs close home loss to Tennessee. Stewart makes 35% of his 3-point attempts and leads his team in steals with 35. Stewart was named SEC Player of the Week during the week of December 31st.
Ben Hansbrough (6-3, 205) missed four games earlier in the SEC schedule due to an illness but has recently returned to form averaging 10.5 points per game. He had 20 points in a win at Auburn a couple weeks ago and makes 37% of his 3-point attempts. He is also very accurate from the free throw line, making 81 percent of his attempts.
Forward/center Brian Johnson (6-9, 245), a transfer from Louisville, gets about 10 minutes a game playing time and contributes 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds per contest. He scored 10 points against Clemson earlier in the season. Freshman forward/center Elgin Bailey (6-8, 265) averages 2 points and 2 rebounds in 7 minutes of action per game. Guard/forward Ravern Johnson (6-7, 175) scored 5 points in 10 minutes of playing time in the Bulldog's recent win at Florida.
Keys to Vandy win
- Run 'em ragged Mississippi State has a great starting five but they are not very deep on the bench. Vandy should rotate players often and run as much as possible to wear down the Bulldogs.
- Start strong MSU is 1-6 when trailing at the half while Vanderbilt 18-0 when leading.
- Foul smart The Bulldogs stuggle at the free throw line. Strategic fouls could help the Commodore cause.
- A.J. and Shan go wildA.J. Ogilvy and Shan Foster can open things up for each other. A.J.'s big frame and quickness should be an asset against the dominant Rhodes and Varnado. The Commodores will need the big Aussie to help keep those two under control. Foster, meanwhile, can open things up by drilling some early 3's. Lets hope his senior night is a memorable one.
This MSU squad is talented and dangerous having beaten a good Florida team on the road that blasted visiting Vanderbilt. However, Memorial Magic and a deep, hot shooting Commodore squad should conquer and prevail, 74-67.