*This is the first matchup with Texas A&M as a conference game. The programs have met before, as recently as December 2011 when State took a 69-60 win in the New York 2K Classic. The other meetings were in the 1960s and split, giving MSU a 2-1 lead.
*This is though the first time for a meeting on either's home court.
*Three current Dogs played in last season's win, though Baxter Price and Tyson Cunningham only for a few seconds at the end. G Jalen Steele came off the bench for ten minutes and scored three points.
*State has just suffered its first-ever consecutive losses in Humphrey Coliseum by 30 or more points, to Alabama and Florida.
*The Dogs are 1-3 on CSS.
The Opponent: Not only are the Aggies in the same seven-team SEC muddle with a 2-4 record, they too are on a four-loss streak. Direct comparisons aren't easy because against comparable opponents the margins have been much closer than State's…but A&M has dropped games to LSU and Georgia as well that have heads scratching. So it's a key schedule juncture for first-year coach Billy Kennedy to keep some sort of post-season hopes alive. He's done a solid job already despite losing lots of offense from an under-achieving '12 team which failed to extend a six-year NCAA streak, and is just two wins shy of matching last year's total already. Only one regular starter is back but he sure counts. Big guard Elston Turner (a name of some impact in MSU memory) takes a quarter of their shots and has accounted for almost half their made treys. And don't waste time fouling either as he's an 80% marksman at the stripe. Moving into the starting squad has let junior Kourtney Roberson blossom into a selective but sure shooter and real force on the glass. Forward Ray Turner has picked back up from last season to make a fine frontcourt pairing with size…though not a lot of shot-blocking for whatever reason. A couple of more recent transfers have found their way into lineups, most notably guard Fabyon Harris. He's given Turner instant support, drawing defenses to the arc where he knocks down 45% of shots. Andrew Young is bulk off the bench and on the boards. Freshman Alex Caruso looks like a force for the future, as whether starting or not he is pacing the pack in assists. This is an interesting team that might not be outstanding in any single area, but neither are the Aggies obviously weak anywhere either. Their NCAA challenge is a lack of any real ‘quality' wins to-date save maybe—and it's still a maybe—beating Kentucky. Since there aren't a lot of those opportunities left in a lowly league maybe the real goal is avoiding any ‘bad' losses the rest of the way and hoping to peak at tourney time.
Projected Lineup: F Ray Turner, 6-9 SR, 10.0ppg, 5.8rpg, 57%fgs; F Kourtney Roberson, 6-9 SO, 6.6ppg, 6.4rpg, 59%fgs; G J'Mychal Reese, 6-1 FR, 7.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 13 3ptrs; G Elston Turner, 6-5 SR, 15.7ppg, 3.5rpg, 47 3ptrs, 51asts; G Fabyon Harris, 5-11JR, 10.5ppg, 26 3ptrs, 45% 3ptrs.
Top Alternates: G Alex Caruso, 6-5 FR, 5.0ppg, 3.6rpg, 58asts; F Andrew Young, 6-8 JR, 3.5ppg, 3.4rpg.
By The Numbers (All Games)
Scoring: MSU 61.2, A&M 63.3
Scoring Defense: MSU 66.7, A&M 59.3
FG Shooting: MSU 40.4%, A&M 44.7%
FG Defense: MSU 42.2%, A&M 40.7%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 28.6%, A&M 37.6%
3-Pointers PG: MSU 4.4, A&M 5.1
Rebounding: MSU 34.8, A&M 34.2
Rebound Margin: MSU -1.8, A&M +3.2
FT Shooting: 67.6%, A&M 68.9
Turnover Margin: MSU -1.2, A&M -0.2
Bulldog Notes: C Gavin Ware has posted consecutive double-digit outings in SEC play for his first time, with 11 points at Arkansas and 10 against Florida. In his first four SEC games the freshman had a total of 16 points.
*Ware has shot 12-of-20 in State's losing streak, his best four-game stretch of the season.
*Ware has only gone to the foul line in one game of the last four; but he was 7-of-8 there, at Arkansas.
*G Fred Thomas has scored double-digits in the last four games and averaged 15 points in the process.
*After a 0-of-4 start to his SEC career in the South Carolina game, Thomas is 9-of-22 at the arc the last five games.
*Thomas scored seven steals against the Gators, tying for the second-best such effort by a Bulldog. The freshman already has 34 thefts this season for a top-ten rookie year.
*But the top thief on this squad is still G Craig Sword with his 35 steals. He and Thomas combine to make State 5th-best in the SEC standings.
*Sword has missed his last seven three-point attempts though. Yet he has nine assists in the last four games.
*G Jalen Steele is paying the price for opponents' scouting him as the lone veteran here. He's had to throw up tougher outside shots under defensive pressure and is 3-of-13 the last four games.
*Steele has 112 career treys for his three seasons and needs 132 to crack the MSU top-ten.
*PG Trivante Bloodman has had two assists in each of the last four games.
*F Colin Borchert has found his outside stroke the last two games, going 4-of-9 there. Oddly he is 1-of-8 on other shots in the same two games.
*He does have six assists in the last three games.