- NASHVILLE – Fans of Tennessee, Vanderbilt. Rick Stansbury wants you.
“I would hope all those fans that are left here. We need them cheering for us. Put that in your paper,” he said.
The urgent appeal centers on what the Mississippi State coach and his Bulldogs face today – Big Blue Nation, a fan base in this event that can be almost as disruptive as the team for which it cheers.
The Bulldogs put a seven-game SEC tournament win streak and the defense of last year’s title on the line at noon today against No. 2 Kentucky. The game will be televised by ABC.
“We’re going to play like their cheering for us out there,” Stansbury said. “They’re going to have their moments, and we have to hope we can keep it close enough to keep the fans out of it.”
for second chance
- Two SEC teams – South Carolina and Tennessee – defeated Kentucky in the regular season. Mississippi State came closer than any Western Division team.
The Bulldogs led 67-60 with 3 minutes left but lost 81-75 in overtime.
Jarvis Varnado was limited to 23 minutes with foul trouble, and Ravern Johnson, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, did not play because of a one-game suspension.
“We’re excited. I’m excited for the two guys who didn’t get to play much, and that’s Ravern and Jarvis,” MSU guard Barry Stewart said.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country, and when they came to our place, we had it, but it slipped out of our hands,” Varnado said. “We want this rematch, and we’ll be up for it.”
Praise for Stewart
- While much of Vanderbilt’s offense runs through center A.J. Ogilvy the role of freshman guard John Jenkins has increased as the season has gone along.
In the Commodores’ 78-66 quarterfinal win over Georgia on Friday, Jenkins – the nation’s leading high school scorer last year with 42.3 points a game – had 25 points on 5-for-8 3-point shooting.
Stewart limited him to one 3-point attempt. He made it and finished with seven points on the day.
“Stewart’s a senior, and he understands dealing with screens,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “We knew it was going to be tough for John to get open. Stewart is a very, very good defensive player and very underrated.”
n “Depth is always a concern. Fatigue is always a concern. As you know, we don’t play a lot of people. Those are the things that sometimes allow teams to make runs at us, but both nights they’ve done it, we’ve held them off.” – MSU coach Rick Stansbury