Hoops: MSU 67, LSU 57

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For the first time this season, Mississippi State beat LSU. And for the first time since 2003, MSU is in the SEC Tournament championship game. It gets Tennessee, which beat Auburn 94-85 in the other semi, at noon Sunday (CBS). The Bulldogs (22-12, 12-7 SEC) were led by Jarvis Varnado‘s 19 points, and his seven blocks give him 159 on the season, breaking Shaquille O’Neal‘s SEC single-season record of 157. Barry Stewart added 17 points and was the only other Bulldog in double digits. The biggest key for State: Holding Tasmin Mitchell (15 points) and Marcus Thornton (14 points) in check. Thornton scored 32 in the first meeting, Mitchell 41 in the second. The secret today? Mixing up defenders on Mitchell, who was checked by Phil Turner, Kodi Augustus and Varnado at various times.

“It changed Tasmin’s mentality. He went at Phil about twice there in that post, (we) made the switch, and I think he shot a jump shot the next time down and missed it,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. Mitchell shot 7 of 18 from the floor, while Thornton was 5 of 19. “You look at that shot chart with Thornton, and he is the most difficult player to guard 1-on-1 in this league,” Stansbury said. “He scores 14 points, and Stew is on him most of the night.”

MSU won despite shooting just 33.3 percent (20 of 60) from the floor, including 18.8 percent (3 of 16) from 3-point range. LSU was just as bad, making 31.0 percent of its shots (22 of 71) and 25.0 percent from deep (4 of 16). The difference came at the free throw line, where State was 24 of 35 to LSU’s 9 of 13. Stewart was 10 of 12. LSU got whistled for 26 personal fouls to MSU’s 13. As physical at the game got at times, the teams combined for just 13 turnovers.

Now, the attention turns to getting into the NCAA tournament. A win today guarantees nothing for MSU, but Stansbury made a case for his team anyway (I’ll columnize on this for tomorrow’s Journal). He said, “I know this: We’re 7-1 against the East, we’re 9-7 coming into this (tournament). Being 9-7, two of those games were double-overtime losses, where we would’ve had have the second-best record in the league, and one of them was to LSU. Four road wins, 4-4 on the road in the SEC, and you’ve gone to the finals of the SEC Tournament.

“So you start breaking that down, who becomes the third and fourth team to get in? You guys make the case, as long as you make the right one.”

More quotes, starting with Stansbury:

• On the difference between this game and the last LSU meeting: “We shot too many threes in Starkville against them. … Tonight we drove the ball and didn’t settle for 3-pointers.”

• On his bench’s play (13 points, 14 rebounds): “This time of year is when your bench has got to be its best. I think our bench is no question playing its best. It helps your chemistry, everybody’s playing together, that bench is coming in and adding to.”

From Turner:

• On playing a fourth game in as many days: “Yeah, we’ve played a couple games back-to-back, but playing for a championship is enough motivation enough to keep pushing through.”

From Stewart:

• On getting the best of Garrett Temple, who committed four fouls: “He’s a great defensive player, so he gets into you. I felt like I had to attack more than relying on my jump shot.”

From Varnado:

• On being covered 1-on-1: “I just went at Chris Johnson and the rest of their bigs. I played loose, was able to block a few shots and rebound the ball.”

LSU coach Trent Johnson:

• On MSU’s postseason résumé: “My feeling about Mississippi State is, the West is pretty strong, wouldn’t you think?”

From Thornton:

• On his team’s frustration: “I think we kind of got unraveled at times, because the calls weren’t going our way all the time. They beat us to loose balls, they did everything that had to do to win the game.”

And finally, Mitchell:

• On MSU’s defense: “I don’t think they did anything different, we just weren’t making shots. … Sometimes we had good looks, sometimes we didn’t. It wasn’t nothing different they did, they just came out and played good basketball”

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20 Responses to “Hoops: MSU 67, LSU 57”

  1. goldendawg Says:

    Looks like we will have to win tomorrow to get in. But regardless, this young team has been very impressive to this point. The future is bright MSU basketball

  2. Brad Locke Says:

    Tennessee reaches the final with a 94-85 win over Auburn.

  3. leeearl Says:

    Can anyone doubt Rick’s coaching abilities now?

  4. coachsmith Says:

    Everyone we are so lucky to have a great coach. He was the guy who made me want to coach. Have you ever noticed how much class his teams play with compared to other teams? His players never seem to get into very serious trouble. Coach stan is the man!!!

  5. 2thdoc Says:

    Also Dogs beat South Carolina 13-6 in baseball. Good day for State.

  6. mathistondawg Says:

    leeearl, you are 100% correct. We are 21-12. Sure we had some tough losses, but we had some big wins too. Coach Stans is a great recruiter, and an ambasador for MSU. Some people forget we have good teams almost every year. U of M fans would give their right arm to have our success in bball.

    I can’t say enough times – just remember the boyd days, when the upper deck was just a playground for kids with paper airplanes, and footballs. I was one of them. It hasn’t been like that in a long, long time because the product we put on the floor is a good one.

  7. Adam Gore Says:

    How would you compare this team to the 03 team?

  8. buzzardroostus Says:

    A lot of you are giving coach stans much deserved credit for the results so far this tournament. My question for you is: Why hasn’t he coached the way he’s coached this weekend for the last 5 years? What I mean is: he actually is letting the bench players play. Maybe it’s because they’re playing every day or that earlier in the season he didn’t feel comfortable playing Johnson, Augustus, and Osby as much due to previous experience or injuries they were recovering from. It still bothers the stink off my dookie why we can’t run a good set play after a time out.

    Another issue is: we are actually rebounding and playing defense well this tournament. Something coach has even admitted he wasn’t concerned about during the season.

    I think Coach definitely deserves a lot of credit. Today we didn’t totally rely on the 3 point shot. I also think Coach Cunningham, Kirby, and Grant deserve a lot of credit. Those three coaches make more sense in ten seconds of talking than Stans does in an hour radio show.

    Call me whatever you want to, I’m sure I’ve been called worse. But Stans doesn’t get a pass from me till we get to the Sweet 16.

  9. thespear Says:

    buzzard, points taken. go to secsports.com and read stans quotes day to day. The man knows his x’s and o’s, trust me. I have to make a rebuttal to the plays out of a timeout. this yr, i can recall many times where we ran a nice little play out of the to. where we make a lil lob to Jv in the front of the rim for an easy two.
    How many of Stans? teams have been capable of sweet 16 or better?

    I say prob three or four. One was upset by a Butler team who could have hit there shots blindfolded that night. Another went down to the wire against a dominant Duke team. And last years team almost upset Memphis who made a lil appearance in the National Championship. All in all, these teams comin up short hasnt had much to do with coaching.

    Great coaches have the guts to make changes. They arent stubborn (shout out to Croom) Stans has completely stepped out of his comfort zone with this team. Normally he coaches rebounding, defense, and great post play. Thats been his teams trademarks throughout his career. But his ability to recognize this team could have more success with different tactics, and his willingness to switch to those tactics, proves he is not just a recruiter! and you can take that to the bank

  10. maxdawg Says:

    Speaking on players being class acts. I got to talk with Phil Turner and His parents. They were nothing but nice. He even called Vanardo down to sign a autograph and pics. Even got Barry Stewart too. All 3 were real class acts I’ll never forget tonight especially if they pull it out tommorrow. Even if not it’s been worth the trip just to mee t them like that.
    GO DAWGS!!!!!

  11. imabulldog Says:

    Give em our best after the game Sunday Max, win or lose.

    Go Dawgs! One More!

  12. benzadawgfan Says:

    Buzzard, you know I don’t agree, although I can see where you are comin’ from. I have to say that if we could win tomorrow, and lost our first round game, I would consider this year a great success! Don’t forget we were picked 4th in the west, and although we laid a few eggs, we won half of our road games, and have beaten everybody but Tn in the east.(If all I knew were those two stats, I would say we won the west!) Coach Stans at least saw that the same old plan wasn’t working, and was willing to make a drastic change that saved our season. I feel like we have been a work in progress and have finally hit our stride. No matter what we do this year, I am excited about next year, we’ll get that sweet 16 then buzzard, then you and coach can kiss & make up. I will skip the name callin’ stuff. Everyone should feel free to speak their mind…… while we still have the 1st ammendment!!!!!!!!

  13. warbirdz44 Says:

    thespear, I have to call you out on one thing: Butler beat us 47-46. I would hardly call that “a Butler team who could have hit there shots blindfolded that night.” When you hold a team to 47 points you gotta beat them. Also, the year we were a #4 in the nation and went 1 and done in the SEC tourney and lost to Xavier in the second round was inexcusable. Now I’ll admit, Stans has done an admirable job in the conference tourney but I still won’t be fully satisfied with his tenure here until he can get us to a sweet 16.

  14. thespear Says:

    your right warbirdz my thoughts became twisted as i was thinking of xavier and said butler.. i believe xavier had one span in which they hitt ten threes in a row…

  15. warbirdz44 Says:

    Yeah, Xavier scored over 80 in that game. Still, though, that was a team we beat earlier that season and that’s still the most disappointing loss I’ve seen to date as an MSU fan.

  16. buzzardroostus Says:

    I want to believe in Stans. And I’m coming around. If I keep seeing games like yesterday, that’ll be the clincher. Winning was not what impressed me. It’s the fact that we looked like a team. 10 players had more than 8 minutes of playing time. All of those players except Benock and Osby scored, but they a couple of important rebounds and assists. It may the best free throw shooting we’ve seen in years in a game.

    I just wonder if some of the games we laid eggs in earlier this year would have had a different outcome if Augustus and Johnson would have had more playing time. Maybe this is Stans plan: to hide a couple of secret weapons till the tournament. If that’s been the case then he’s really more stupid than I think. It seems we’d be better served to let Turner and Varnado get more minutes than Stewart and Johnson. I think Bost needs to have the most minutes as point guard and Varnado needs his rest (plus helps keep him out of foul trouble). But there’s no doubt in mind that Turner is our most valuable player. He hustles on both ends and can jump out of the gym. And think what a kid like Beckam would be like had he gotten more experience during the season.

    Having said all that, I’m glad to see coach make good decisions the past 3 days. The only way we’ll win today or in the NCAA tourny is to let our bench be involved. LSUs bench still outscored ours 16-13.

  17. Needle Says:

    Rooster,
    It must be nice to have this perfert 20/20 coaching hindsight. So based on your posts, you must be a championship level coach since you can criticize one of the best coaches we have every had at State.

    If only YOU had been our coach, we would be ranked #1 in the nation. Please forward you resume to the athletic dept ASAP.

    People like you disgust me.

  18. mathistondawg Says:

    I am tired of looking at programs around the country that get a little success, then expect it every year. Basketball is probably the most competitve sport out there. Just look at the upsets – even lowly baylor made a run this year when it counted.

    I believe in stans, his class, his family, his teams. We have a great group of kids, and I can take pride in our teams. Think about it – look around you. No drama here.

  19. leeearl Says:

    We won as a team with desire against LSU, but I’d like to give credit to Rick for the Defensive scheme he drew up to shut down SEC’s POY….great job MSU and glad to have Rick as our coach, we’ve had some losses in the NCAA that we should’ve won, but I’m just happy as a small redneck college to even be able to average 20 wins a season and going from not even in the running for a NCAA bid to being talked about in every NCAA conversation…Go Bulldogs!!!

    When we lost Hopson, Rick went and got Dee, who got the best of Downey, Wow, who would’ve thought our freshman point guard could outplay him, I’m not giving Rick credit for his playing, just got pumped after watching the USC game for the 3rd time :o)

  20. buzzardroostus Says:

    Herein lies the biggest problem with a large number of MSU fans. We’re just content winning 20 games every year. We’re just content going to the Liberty Bowl. We’re just content being average. The late Paul Harvey put it nicely “To be average means to be the worst of the best or the best of the lousiest.”

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