Mississippi State enters this evening’s game with a record of 14-7 overall, 5-3 in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs have won five straight SEC games after starting off conference play 0-3. Their lone loss during that five game SEC winning streak was a one-point loss at Oklahoma as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. Mississippi State is one of the most dominant teams in the country on the offensive glass, rebounding 37.4% of their own misses on the way to capturing 13 offensive rebounds per game. Coach Ben Howland has the Bulldogs playing some very efficient basketball of late thanks to improved shooting from beyond the arc since their slow start to SEC play. After a tough showing on the glass at Auburn, Kentucky will have to find a way to keep Abdul Ado, Reggie Perry, and Robert Woodard II off the offensive boards. Ado & Perry are the two leading offensive rebounders in the conference while Woodard II is also in the Top 10. The Bulldogs are a big, physical team that will look to enforce their will around the basket and on the glass against the Wildcats while Kentucky tries to show that they are better than their performance Saturday night. Let’s dive in and go over the game plan on the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
#0 Nick Weatherspoon: 6’2″ 185 lbs, Junior Point Guard
12.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.5 apg
Point Guard. More of a driver than a shooter, but capable from 3-point range. No right hand drives! Really wants to drive it right. Have to stay between him and the basket and make him score over you. Has shot a pretty good percentage on a couple of attempts per game in the past, but only 4-20 this season from deep. Just have to be close enough to contest the obvious 3’s. Be ready to contest the pull-up jumpers as well. Try to make him uncomfortable when he is dribbling it. Not always super comfortable handling the ball. Do not get beat off the dribble, but if you can pressure him and keep him in front then you can pressure. Not a true point guard but is their primary ball-handler. You can hop under the ballscreens. Help off of him when he doesn’t have, just closeout enough to throw a hand up. No layups!
#3 D.J. Stewart Jr.: 6’6″ 205 lbs, Redshirt Freshman Guard
8.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Lefty. SHOOTER! No 3’s! Have to be tight on him to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. Once you take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s he will look to drive it left. No left hand drives! Closeout to him like a shooter but then bounce back and be ready to guard against the drive. Longer, athletic guard. Not thinking about passing as he drives it. No help off of him. Be tight. Get over the ballscreens if they are set for him. Chase him off downscreens and get over the flares. Find him in transition. No 3’s!
#12 Robert Woodard II: 6’7″ 235 lbs, Sophomore Guard/Forward
11.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg
Long, physical wing. Very good mid-range shooter. Contest everything!!! Capable 3-point shooter. Shooting just short of 50% on around 2 attempts per game. Really likes to shoot the mid-range J’s off the dribble. Uses his length and ability to elevate to get shots off over you. Once he gets the ball you need to pressure him. Can be loose with the ball so we want to pressure him anyway. Don’t allow him to beat you off the dribble, but pressure him and break his rhythm to limit his pull-up J’s. Likes to shoot the one or two dribble pull-up going right or take a rhythm dribble in his left hand if he is bouncing it. Break his rhythm! No right hand drives. Be there to contest the catch-and-shoot 3’s. Switch if he sets a ballscreen. EXCELLENT offensive rebounder. Averaging over 2 offensive rebounds per game. BOX OUT!!!
#1 Reggie Perry: 6’10” 250 lbs, Sophomore Forward
17.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg
Big, physical forward. Capable shooter. 17-54 from 3. Have to be there to give a hard contest to the catch-and-shoot 3’s. No catch-and-shoot 3’s. Will pick-and-pop some. Likes to shoot the trail spot 3’s. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Runs the floor hard and will look to seal at the front of the rim. Have to be physical and keep him from getting deep post catches. Looking to duck you in in the half court for a deep post catch. Have to try and keep him off the block and then be physical on his left shoulder. When he is on the perimeter he can drive it at you once you take away the 3. Be ready to move your feet and stay between him and the basket. Don’t help too much off of him when he is on the perimeter. EXCELLENT offensive rebounder. Averaging over 3 offensive rebounds per game. BOX OUT!!!
#24 Abdul Ado: 6’11” 255 lbs, Redshirt Junior Forward
5.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Tall, long forward. Wants to score around the rim. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Mostly scores off of offensive rebounds or dump off passes. He is big enough to score with the right hand hook when he catches it deep though. Your primary focus when guarding him needs to be boxing out and being physical when the shot goes up. You have to find him and make first contact to try and move him away from the basket. Averaging 3.5 offensive rebounds per game!!! BOX OUT!!!
#23 Tyson Carter: 6’4″ 175 lbs, Senior Guard
13.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.4 apg
Backup guard. Will handle the ball a lot when he is in there. Similar to Weatherspoon, we can pressure him a little extra to try and force some turnovers. Make him uncomfortable. Aggressive offensive player. Half of his shots have been 3’s. Shooter! No 3’s! Have to be tight enough to take away the 3’s. Once you take away the 3 he will look to drive it right. No right hand drives. He isn’t a very good finisher. Make him score with you between him and the basket once he drives it. Good passer. Don’t over help when he drives it. Just make him score over you. Get over the ballscreens. Chase him off downscreens and get over the flares. Much better free throw shooter than finisher. Don’t bail him out by fouling. No 3’s!
#5 Iverson Molinar: 6’3″ 195 lbs, Freshman Guard
Backup guard. Capable shooter, but more of a driver than a shooter. Be close enough to give a hard contest on 3’s, but then bounce back and guard against the right hand drive. No right hand drives! Good finisher. Be physical as he drives it. Try to make him uncomfortable with as much on-ball pressure as you can apply with out getting beat to his right. You can help off of him a little bit, but need to close out to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s and then guard against the right hand drive. Contest everything. No layups. No right hand drives.
#15 Prince Oduro: 6’8″ 250 lbs, Redshirt Sophomore Forward
1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg
Backup post. Very strong and physical. Scores around the rim. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Don’t let him duck you in for a deep post catch. Don’t step up to help off of him and give up a dunk. Box out!
Mississippi State runs “Wheel” or “Virginia” Motion as their base offense. This offense creates movement on both sides of the floor and forces you to make decisions on how you want to guard the flares and pin downs that are being set every possession. They will set a lot of ballscreens within their Motion as well and are always looking for opportunities to get the ball inside to Perry as well. They are such a good offensive rebounding team that it is part of what they do as well. They take some tough shots, especially from mid-range, because they know that they will get a second chance nearly 40% of the time. There is nothing earth-shattering about their offense, but it absolutely comes down to boxing out and limiting them to one shot as many times as possible.
Virginia Motion: Here is a clip of what their Motion looks like. They begin with a handoff and ball reversal just to get some movement and then will run off a baseline pin down screen as a flare screen is set on the opposite side. On this possession they hit the guard coming off the initial downscreen which means that the player off the flare screen will now run along the baseline to come off the pin down and the passer comes off the flare. You can see why it is sometimes called “Wheel” Motion due to the circular nature of the action. Woodard’s defender gets screened well and they are able to hit him off the flare as Tennessee switches. This is the shot Woodard is so good at. You have to try and get up into him here and break his rhythm to take away the jumper.
Virginia Motion: On this possession of their Motion you can see why it can be really hard to guard. Since the screening actions are working in opposite directions of one another it really spreads the floor and limits help opportunities. It is crucial that we are great at the point of the screen and are in the right possession to “show” on the screen and the switch if we need to. Tennessee goes over the flare set for #3 Stewart which is the right decision, but #10 for Tennessee is staring at the ball and has no idea that he needs to either help back towards the rim or just switch it (which is what they really should have done here). Great read by Stewart to curl the flare to the rim for an easy lob.
High Ballscreen: As the ball gets reversed the point guard will cut underneath to the left wing to get a catch. As they space the floor the post will sprint into a ballscreen from the opposite block and then roll to the rim. This is their favorite called ballscreen action. The long-run into the ballscreen tries to get you to come out too far and allow the ball-handler to drive it. Tennessee actually does a really good job on their flat hedge here, but the on-ball defender doesn’t ever get back in front to allow the post defender to recover back to the roll guy.
High Ballscreen: Here is another clip of their high ballscreen. Just like Tennessee did, Florida does a solid job of guarding the ballscreen, helping on the roll, and keeping Weatherspoon between them and the basket. However, the on-ball defender once again didn’t ever get all the way back in front which allowed Weatherspoon to get a pretty clean look at a floater. If you aren’t going to get back in front then we just need to switch the ballscreen so we can keep a guy on a guy!
Ballscreen w/ Cross Screen: This is another one of their favorite called actions outside of their Motion. They just set a high middle ballscreen as they set a cross screen on the blocks to try and go inside. After ballscreening, the roll guy can screen-the-screener as well. They have a lot of success going inside off of this cross screen. Not terrible defense here by Tennessee as they switch the cross screen, but just better offensive by Woodard to find a way to get the bucket.
The Bulldogs are a half-court, man-to-man team defensively. With the size of Woodard, Perry, and Ado inside they are very good at protecting the rim, but they have been susceptible to giving up 3’s this season. As you would expect, they are a pretty good defensive rebounding team but not as dominant as they are on the offensive boards.
Keys to the Game
- REBOUNDING!!! Mississippi State is averaging over 13 offensive rebounds per game. We need to limit them to 10 or fewer.
- No 3’s for #3 Stewart Jr. or #23 Carter. Have to take them away from 3. Also no catch-and-shoots for #12 Woodard II or #1 Perry. Limit Woodard II from mid-range too.
- Contain #1 Perry. He is an all-around outstanding player. No easy buckets around the rim and no catch-and-shoot 3’s. Hold him to 1 offensive rebound per game. Hold him to under 14 points and 8 rebounds.
- REBOUNDING!!! It deserves another mention. At the end of the day, this will decide the game. If we hold them to single-digit offensive rebounds we will win.