By Gregg Ellis
BATON ROUGE, La. – With Charles Rhodes likely out of the lineup again due to a severely sprained left ankle, John Brady was asked how his strategy might change.
After a brief pause, the 11th-year LSU coach laughed.
With all the adversity his own team has faced this year, he doesn’t have much time to worry with MSU’s woes.
When the two teams meet at 7 p.m. today at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU will have the services of just seven scholarship players.
Brady, whose team sports a 7-7 record, describes his situation as being “down to the bare minimum.”
As for Rhodes not playing, he said to just look at how the Bulldogs fared the first two games without him – convincing wins against Missouri and Lafayette.
“Shoot, I saw without Charles Rhodes they played their best game of the year,” Brady said. “It might be better because maybe we can matchup a little better. He’s a great player.”
Brady just wishes he was down only one player.
Instead, he’s without the services of forwards Tasmin Mitchell (ankle) and Quinton Thornton (torn pectoral muscle) and center Chris Johnson (hand). At the same time, guard Dameon Mason could be an academic casualty. He’s taking intersession classes in hopes of regaining his eligibility, but it’s not known if his grades will be released in time for tonight’s game.
“We’re just trying to find 10 players to practice with,” Brady said.
With the depleted roster, he said the Tigers will be forced to be more of a perimeter team.
That’s sort of the same situation the Bulldogs, who have won four in a row, face.
With Rhodes out, Jamont Gordon has moved inside, while Phil Turner has joined Ben Hansbrough and Barry Stewart in the guard slots.
All have been effective, along with Ravern Johnson, who proved to be a nice spark off the bench against Lafayette.
“We’re playing our best basketball right now,” said Gordon, who leads MSU with a 17.5 scoring average. “We’re playing a lot of shooters. Guys like Phil and Ravern have filled in and done a great job.”
And if there’s two areas the Bulldogs have drastically improved, it’s closing games and picking up intensity on the defensive end.
“I think our defense has picked up a lot,” said sophomore forward Jarvis Varnado, whose 4.7 blocks are fourth best in the country. “We are rebounding the ball well now, so we can run and the guards can penetrate and dish it off to me. That means big things for us.”
State is yielding just 63.5 points an outing and holding teams to 37.3 percent shooting. MSU is also winning the battle of the boards, 42.4-34.9.
“A positive is we are playing withut Charles and have played well and had some bench guys step up and play above their level in his absence,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “Our defense has continually improved as well.”