Writer: Julia Morrill
Game: Oregon vs. Mississippi St.
Post time: 11:40 PM
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Charles Rhodes started the scoring for Mississippi State with a thunderous dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy-and that was only the beginning. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound senior forward/center finished with a team-high 34 points, nine rebounds and was 10-for-12 from the field. Going into the game, Rhodes said he would have to carry the team on his back, and that was especially the case in the first half when the rest of his teammates combined for 12 points (to Rhode's 16) and went 0-of-10 from beyond the arc. In fact he joked afterward that he was going to have to start "shooting some treys, but my percentage ain't too good." In the second half, his teammates caught up, but Rhodes was always there at the crucial moments and once again threw down a huge dunk to pull the Bulldogs even at 52-52 with around nine minutes left. After one clutch shot, Rhodes looked at the crowd and made a hand sign of a bird by interlocking his thumbs and making his fingers like wings. Afterward, he said it's the signature of Nets forward Stromile Swift. Says Rhodes, "It looks like a dove flying. I do it when I'm flying."
Who didn't impress me? Besides the Oregon defense? How about the Bulldogs much-hyped junior point guard Jamont Gordon, who is on both the Wooden Award and Cousy Award lists. He's known for his build: 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, not your typical point guard body. Coach Rick Stansbury yesterday said, "[Gordon] has a fullback's body and has the mentality to go with that body". Gordon has had some impressive games this season (back-to-back double doubles with 24 points and career high-tying 13 rebounds at Auburn and 17 points and a career high-tying 10 assists against Alabama). But against Oregon? He was 2-for-14 from the field and had just eight points and led the team with six turnovers. For Mississippi State to get past Memphis, they need Gordon to take control of the offense and be the floor general (not to mention score some more points). Rhodes will not be able to carry the load on his own like he did against Oregon.
Coach Stansbury is never far from his youngest sons, Isaac, 8, and Noah, 5, who are always dressed up in full MSU uniforms. They run out onto the floor with the team, came to the press conference, and yes, they are adorable.