Tonight Mississippi State opens SEC play down on the bayou, facing the Tigers of Baton Rogue. State will take a 9-5 record and a four-game win streak into the action while LSU clings to a 7-7 record and a three game losing streak. While the Bulldogs will be without the services of Charles Rhodes they certainly have the better of it as the Tigers are without three of their best athletes. Here is what you need to know for tonight's SEC showdown.
Tonight's projected starting lineup:
LSU is in unfamiliar waters as tonight they will open the SEC at home for the first time in six seasons. Under John Brady the Tigers have posted a 3-7 record in SEC openers.
Numbers will be a problem for Brady as they are expected to dress only eight players for tonight's game. Quinton Thornton, who has been out due to injury, could possibly be the ninth Tiger to dress, but he is not expected to take the court. All totaled LSU is missing the services of Tasmin Mitchell, Chris Johnson, and Quinton Thornton due to injuries in addition to Dameon Mason who is out due to grades.
Among the players the Bulldogs will face tonight, freshman Anthony Randolph, at 6-10 he will stand tall in the post.
is averaging 13.9 points per game to go with 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. He is currently fifth among SEC freshmen in scoring and stands second in blocked shot average.
The leading scorer for Brady's bunch is Marcus Thornton, who averages 17.5 points per outing to go with 6.1 rebounds from his guard position.
State fans will likely see a smaller, quicker lineup due to the numbers depletion. The Tigers will rely on perimeter shooting, which has been streaky at best. At times the Tigers have been able to shoot 60 percent from the floor and on other nights they have done well to manage 35 percent. Of late, the shots haven't been falling and as a result the Tigers had an eight-game home win streak snapped against Washington.
As Coach Stansbury said in the SEC teleconference this week, "they're not going to feel sorry for us because we don't have Charles (Rhodes)".
Once again the Bulldogs will take the floor without their star center, who has been hampered by a sprained ankle. Despite his absence State has managed a four game win streak including a win over Missouri.
MSU has been getting the job done with a quick, athletic, four-guard lineup. Phil Turner has been injected into the starting rotation resulting in a transformation in the way Mississippi State plays basketball. During this recent stretch offensive production has picked up the pace scoring 86 points per game over the last four outings.
No secret that Jamont Gordon has been the goto guy for coach Stansbury's squad. Gordon is averaging 17.5 points per game, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists while splitting time with Barry Stewart at the point. While Gordon still has his moment of uncontrollable play, his productivity and effort makes it worth while.
The sparkplug for the Bulldogs in recent games appears to be Barry Stewart. When Stewart plays well the Bulldogs have an excellent chance of winning. While Gordon is going to score his 15-20 points, it is Stewart's production the seems to be the key for Bulldogs energy. Stewart leads the team in playing time with 33.8 minutes serving as the secondary point guard behind Gordon.
Like the Tigers, Mississippi State will depend on the production of their guards in the absence of Rhodes, but don't forget about Jarvis Varnado. The talented sophomore is a shot blocking machine in his on right, averaging a league leading 4.7 blocks per game. His ability to defend the goal should force LSU to stay outside more often than they would like.
Tonight's tip-off is set for 7:00 in Baton Rogue with no television broadcast schedule.