Mississippi State’s Cinderella run ended here in Portland today at the hands of 15th-ranked and No. 4-seeded Washington (26-8). The 13th-seeded Bulldogs (23-13) never found their offensive rhythm, inside or out, shooting 33.9 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from 3-point range. Washington hit 43.5 percent of its shots and was led by Quincy Pondexter‘s season-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting. He had 15 at halftime, when Washington held what proved to be an insurmountable 38-27 lead.
Barry Stewart and Phil Turner led MSU with 11 points apiece. Jarvis Varnado was held to seven points in 22 minutes thanks to foul trouble. But back to the game in a moment.
When looking into the future for Mississippi State, it’s cloudy for a couple of Bulldogs. We know that sophomore Kodi Augustus, who’s become a force off the bench these last seven games, has been non-committal about his future with the team. “I haven’t thought about it yet,” he said after the game. “I’ll look at everything and take everything into consideration.” But then there is senior Brian Johnson, a projected starter who was forced to come off the bench due to a preseason ankle/foot injury. Johnson told me he plans to apply for a medical redshirt, although I’m not sure how that will work. He’s had one of those already, at Louisville, and sat out another year after transferring to State. I think what he meant to say was that he was going to seek an extra year of eligibility, not an actual redshirt, which wouldn’t make much sense.
“As soon as I get back I’m going to find out about that,” he said. He said he thinks he has a “50-50” chance of his request being approved by the NCAA. I spoke with MSU compliance guru Bracky Brett, who sounded surprised to hear of Johnson’s intention. Brett said he couldn’t comment on it now but would be happy to in a few days.
OK, back to today’s game, with some postgame reaction. Starting with MSU coach Rick Stansbury:
• On his team’s energy level: “I didn’t think it was there from the tipoff. Not one time, except maybe in that second half, defensively about two or three trips, we really got into somebody and guarded them, but it didn’t last long. We just weren’t as quick as we normally are, as energetic as we normally are. I just didn’t see it in some areas.”
• On fatigue: “Y’all can write about it and think it’s a factor, I’m not going to make no excuses for our guys. I didn’t make it before the game, I’m sure not going to make it now. But it’s very obvious we weren’t at our best energy-wise and rhythm-wise, and I think you can attribute that to a couple of different things.”
• On Pondexter: “He was just a huge matchup, very athletic, bigger and stronger than he looked. … Everybody talks about Brockman and Isaiah, he’s kind of the wild card on that team.”
• On seeding/locale: “I’ve always said the SEC champion in that Sunday afternoon game, whoever that team is that wins it, never gets the respect or really the advantage of winning that tournament. Because they just plug you in somewhere. That’s the second time that’s happened to us, but again, we’re not going to make any excuses.”
From Ravern Johnson:
• On State’s shooting woes: “They played good D, they got into us, but I think we still had some pretty good looks. We missed a lot of layups.”
• On his foul trouble: “I felt like if I would’ve stayed in there it would’ve been a lot different story. We’ve got to keep playing through it. If I’m out of the game, people have got to step up.”
• On State’s shooting woes: “It’s just one of those things. We’re a great-shooting basketball team, but give credit to Washington. They got into our guards, where usually we have some pretty good looks.”
• On Pondexter: “Pondexter is really a glue guy that gets things done; he was just big for them today.”