Scouting Report: Mississippi State

The bad news is that Vanderbilt lost on Saturday. The good news is that they competed well on the road against a good SEC team. Now the Commodores must get ready for a tough, determined Mississippi State Bulldog squad that heads to Nashville with high hopes of improving their postseason seedings. Look inside for a Scouting report on the Bulldogs of MSU.

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.

MSU's season

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.

MSU coaching


Rick Stansbury is the winningest head coach in MSU history. (Scout.com photo)
Tenth year head coach Rick Stansbury (205-112) is the all-time winningest basketball coach in Mississippi State's basketball history. Stansbury, who led his team to four straight NCAA appearances from 2001 to 2005, had experienced a couple of lean years but appears to have the Bulldogs back in gear and headed to another NCAA appearance. A win over Vanderbilt would likely enhance the Bulldog's seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Guards

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.


Jamont Gordon is the Bulldog's top scorer and ranks third in the SEC in assists. (Scout.com photo)
All-SEC guard/forward Jamont Gordon (6-4, 230) who starred at Nashville's Glencliff High School leads the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 17.1 per game. Gordon rates third in the SEC in assists made per game averaging an impressive 4.7. Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl commented on Gordon's abilities saying, "You can't cover Jamont Gordon with one player; your whole defense has to account for him." Gordon is MSU's leading 3-point shooting making 33% of 156 attempts. Last year in Starkville Gordon scored 15 points in helping his team to an 83-70 win over Vandy.

Forwards


The athletic Charles Rhodes scored 23 points in State's home win over Vandy in 2006. (Scout.com photo)
Senior All-SEC veteran Charles Rhodes (6-8, 245) is a workhorse for the Bulldogs. The very athletic Rhodes, who has tremendous leaping (and dunking) ability, is the Bulldogs second leading scorer pouring in 16 points a game. He averages 7 rebounds a game and has blocked 33 shots. In last year's win over Vandy he led the Bulldogs in scoring with 23 and had 8 rebounds. Rhodes was on fire last week averaging 22 points a game and earning SEC Player of the Week honors in leading his team to wins over Auburn and Florida.

Center


Jarvis Varnado is the nation's leading shot blocker. (Scout.com photo)
Brownsville, Tenn. native Jarvis Varnado (6-9, 210) is the nation's leading shot blocker averaging 4.8 a game. He has had 10 block games three times this season. Jarvis scores 7.5 points a game and pulls down 8 rebounds. His glaring weakness is at the charity stripe where he makes less than 50 percent of his attempts.

Key Backups

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.

Prediction

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.


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