Bulldogs upset Rebels

Published 12:57 am Sunday, January 27, 2008

Charles Rhodes scored 26 points and Jamont Gordon had 13 as Mississippi State used its tireless defense to upset No. 17 Mississippi 88-68 on Saturday.

Rhodes and frontcourtmate Jarvis Varnado forced early foul trouble for the Rebels (15-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) and harassed them the entire game as the Bulldogs (14-5, 5-0) extended their winning streak to nine games overall and five in the SEC.

Ole Miss has gone 2-3 in conference play after starting 13-0. It was the Rebels’ second straight loss and their third straight on the road.

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The Rebels have lost 23 of their last 25 in Starkville, where they have not won since Feb. 21, 1998, a string of 10 straight losses. The Bulldogs have won 11 of 13 against the Rebels since 2001-02 and 15 of the last 19.

Gordon also had six assists, while Barry Stewart and Riley Benock added 12 points each for the Bulldogs.

Dwayne Curtis led Mississippi with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Chris Warren had 15 and Eniel Polynice 13.

Ole Miss, which entered the game No. 8 in the nation in scoring at 84.9 points per game, struggled from its first offensive possession when Varnado opened the game with a block. That set the tone for the Bulldogs, who are No. 2 in the nation in field goal percentage defense and continued their stingy ways by holding the Rebels to 36.8 percent shooting.

Rhodes scored six straight points early to give the Bulldogs some separation. The Rebels rallied to take their biggest lead, 17-13 with 12:02 left in the first half, but Varnado answered with six straight points during an 18-7 run that put Mississippi State up 32-26 with 3:39 left in the first half.

Varnado, the nation’s leading shot blocker, finished with four blocks, eight rebounds and 12 points and constantly forced the Rebels to alter their shots. Most importantly he helped put Kenny Williams and Curtis on the bench for much of the first half with foul trouble.

With Ole Miss’ two top rebounders limited, Mississippi State’s frontcourt helped build a 38-31 halftime lead.

Gordon, who at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds was a mismatch for Ole Miss’ smaller guards, took over in the second half. In a 5-minute span, he had two 3-pointers, a thunderous running dunk and an assist in transition on a long bounce pass through traffic that put the Bulldogs up 13 points.

Mississippi State finished off the Rebels with a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass that Rhodes powered home to end Ole Miss’ last rally with 3 minutes to play.

The Mississippi State crowd followed with a chant of “overrated” as the team’s stars were removed from the game.

Gordon moved into 10th place on Mississippi State’s career scoring list, passing Tang Hamilton (1,307), Rich Knarr (1,305) and Timmy Bowers (1,300). He has 1,308 points.