March 12, 2009
Mississippi State sophomore guard Ravern Johnson had one of his best games of the season Jan. 24 when he scored 21 points in a 67-61 victory against Georgia.
Johnson found a hole in Georgia''s zone defense and was 8 of 15 from the field, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
Georgia likely will try a different strategy against Johnson when it faces MSU at 2:30 p.m. today in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament in Tampa, Fla.
Johnson (12.5 points per game) also can drive to the basket with authority, which could be a plan for attack in the rematch.
"If they try to get up on me, I''ll try to put it on the floor and try to draw fouls," Johnson said.
This battle of the Bulldogs has a different look than the first meeting.
Pete Herrmann became interim coach at Georgia after Dennis Felton resigned following a 9-11 start (0-5 in the SEC).
Herrmann, who is 3-8 since taking over, said Johnson''s play "was terrific" in the first game, but he knows MSU coach Rick Stansbury''s has other weapons at his disposal.
"Rick''s team has a really good blend of excellent 3-point shooters, a terrific point guard (Dee Bost) who can create offense, and a great shot blocker inside in Jarvis (Varnado)," Herrmann said. "Dee Bost has been a real catalyst. When he has been good distributing the ball and creating offense by penetrating by defense, he''s made them better. He''s as dangerous as he can be. Jarvis just goes about his business and does what he does very well.
"I know it will be a very tough game. We''ll try to go after them, defend the 3-point line, and somehow get the ball inside and score it."
Georgia (12-19), the sixth seed out of the SEC Eastern Division, is 3-4 in its last seven games.
Stansbury said the experience factor with seniors Terrance Woodberry (14 ppg.) and Corey Butler in the starting lineup helps Georgia. He also likes freshman Trey Thompkins (12.7 ppg.).
"We''ve got to turn every bit of our focus to Georgia," Stansbury said. "Talent wise, it''s obvious they can beat anybody."
Georgia starts Woodberry, Thompkins and Albert Jackson at forwards, while Butler and Corey Ware are the guards.
Bost, Johnson, Barry Stewart, and Phil Turner start at guard for MSU, while Varnado, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year with 143 blocked shots, patrols the paint.
Turner (19-12) knows MSU must keep winning to improve its postseason opportunities. He said the team won''t take Georgia lightly.
"It comes down to how hard are you are willing to play to win and be successful," Turner said. "We''re not going to underestimate anybody because when we do we get beat."