*Georgia leads the series 52-49 but State has chopped the deficit over the past seven seasons with a 8-2 scoreboard, including wins in Athens in 2005 and '09.
*This is MSU's least-played series out of the traditional ten-team SEC. Ironically, Georgia is the foe State has played most in the ‘modern' (1979-present) SEC Tournament with ten such meetings.
*MSU coach Rick Stansbury is 45-45 against Eastern Division teams, including SEC Tournament play. He is 9-6 against Georgia.
The Opponent: Though the first year only produced a 14-17 record and another last-in-East finish, it was easy to see Mark Fox was a good choice to reenergize Georgia basketball. Note, not rebuild, or not entirely, because some good pieces were already on hand. Now those freshmen and sophs of 2009 are 2011 veterans and playing like it, which has Georgia right in the middle of a tumultuous Division fracas. Of course junior big forward Trey Thompkins was a serious SEC player from day-one, averaging 12.6 points and 7.4 boards as a raw rookie. Last year he set the scoring tone at 17.7 for the All-SEC season, and he comes into this weekend at 17.6 and seven boards. His task is made simpler by the old Dog Jeremy Price and his 260-plus pounds in the paint. Not a big stat man, the senior center is a big presence at each end and key to the sound defense as UG ranks 13th nationally—but just fourth SEC—in average blocks. If there's a downside to having two big bodies in there it is the brake that puts on pushing the ball too often. Still, give juniors Dustin Ware and Travis Leslie an outlet lane and they'll take off the other way. Leslie was one of the most-improved players in the league last year at 14.8 points and he's on a similar pace this season whether scoring or distributing. The 5-11 Ware does something of everything as well and like Leslie has a knack for picking pockets in set defenses. What, or whom, has allowed the Bulldogs to make greater gains this season though is transfer guard Gerald Robinson, now eligible after a sitting a year following the move from Tennessee State. His 4.2 assists lead the backcourt but he also throws in perimeter shots or attacks the rim with equal aplomb. The Georgia team in fact leads the SEC in average assists, and Ware does in assist-turnover ratio himself. Depth is used sparingly, another reason for the Dogs to play a more deliberate pace, and the backups provide little to the offense. Nor does UG throw up threes often, preferring to attack the lane. It's worked well enough so far though that controversial Tuesday home loss to Tennessee suddenly makes the upcoming four-game stretch that much more decisive in Georgia's overall season hopes.
Projected Starting Lineups (full-season stats):
GEORGIA: F Trey Thompkins, JR 6-9, 17.6ppg, 7.1rpg, 24blks; C Jeremy Price, SR 6-8, 7.8ppg, 4.6rpg, 18blks; G Travis Leslie, JR 6-4, 14.5ppg, 7.4rpg, 52%fgs; G Dustin Ware, JR 5-11, 7.4ppg, 3.8apg, 25 3ptrs; G Gerald Robinson, JR 6-1, 13.9ppg, 4.2apg, 20 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: F Chris Barnes, SR 6-8, 3.9ppg, 3.9rpg; G Sherrard Brantley, SO 6-2, 3.4ppg, 14 3ptrs; G Connor Nolte, JR 6-7, 2.4ppg, 2.0rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, SR 6-8, 12.4ppg, 8.6rpg, 16 3ptrs; F Renardo Sidney, SO 6-10, 14.4ppg, 5.8rpg; G Dee Bost, JR 6-2, 16.0ppg, 7.0apg; G Ravern Johnson, SR 6-7, 18.5ppg, 47 3ptrs, 3.6rpg; G Riley Benock, SR 6-4, 7.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 37asts.
Top Backups: C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8, 4.1ppg, 3.8rpg, 21blks; G Brian Bryant, JR 6-2, 6.4ppg, 3.9rpg, 38asts; G Jalen Steele FR 6-3, 5.8ppg, 14 3ptrs.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 69.2, UG 70.5
Scoring Defense: MSU 69.1, UG 64.2
FG Shooting: MSU 42.6%, UG 46.5%
FG Defense: MSU 41.3%, UG 39.8%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 33.7%, UG 32.2%
3-point Attempts PG: MSU 22.2, UG 13.5
Rebounding: MSU 37.2, UG 36.8
Rebound Margin: MSU -0.4, UG +3.5
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 69.3%, UG 68.5%
Turnovers: MSU 13.7, UG 13.1
BULLDOG NOTES: The Bulldogs' record is reflected in their shooting. In wins State has shot 45.6%, while they are just 38% shooters in losses. It's even more marked a difference at the arc where the Dogs have made 38.6% in wins, just 26.0% in defeats.
*State is 15-of-40 on three-point tries in the two SEC wins. And in the three conference games starters have accounted for 19 of the 20 made-treys.
*The Bulldogs show up in a top-ten category of this week's NCAA stats just once. They are #9-best in the nation in fouls-per-game.
*In the win over Auburn, the Dogs had more assists than turnovers for the first time since December 13.
*Getting another big body into the lineup has done wonders for State in rebounding, though, with a 38.3 average in the last six games.
*The ‘biggest' addition of course is out on the perimeter. In his three games since the semester suspension ended, G Dee Bost has made up for lost time averaging 16.0 points and 7.0 assists.
*But Bost still has a little rust to knock off, as he's shot 27.8% on trey tries so far and is only 11-of-18 at the foul stripe.
*Bost has started all three games since activation, thus has maintained his career trend of taking tipoff every college game to date. He's at 75-and-counting now.
*With 365 assists Bost ranks 6th on the State career list. He needs 413 for top-five status.
*And he just moved into a tie for 10th in career made-treys at State, his 129 even with Jamont Gordon (2006-08).
*He has 106 career steals and needs 21 more to make the MSU top-ten.
*After his SEC debut fell flat, C/F Renardo Sidney has dominated the last two conference contests with 39 points and 11 rebounds. He also has shot 15-of-24 in those wins.
*Sidney has scored double-digits in four of his five college games.
*He obviously used all that down-time to practice free throws, as he is 12-of-16 at the stripe.
*But Sidney has drawn 18 fouls in five games, fouling out once and reaching four personals twice.
*G/F Ravern Johnson was mired in an extended shooting slump, going just 11-of-49 in a seven-game stretch. Things were looking up in the last game though as Johnson was 8-of-15 against Auburn.
*He is still just 6-of-22 at the arc in SEC play, compared to his overall 37% accuracy for the season. For his career Johnson is a 39% three-point marksman.
*Only once this season has Johnson played less than 31 minutes, a 26-minute night against North Carolina A&T. He has played 110 out of a possible 120 SEC minutes.
*With 224 career treys Johnson is third on the MSU chart, needing 34 more to catch Daryl Wilson (1994-96) for second place.
*His 1,264 career points place him 17th in Bulldog history, having just passed Jerry Graves (1959-61) and Jack Bouldin (1970-72). Next up is the 1,300 points by Timmy Bowers.
*In his first three State seasons PF Kodi Augustus had a pair of double-doubles. Now he has seven this senior season, most in the SEC and #29 in the latest NCAA stats.
*In his three SEC games Augustus has 32 rebounds.
*He has 146 total rebounds this year, compared to 185 all last season.
*Augustus is also having a career-year at the stripe making 79.1% and getting to the foul line more than any other Dog.
*But after shooting 36.8% at the arc last winter, he's hitting just 26% there this season.
*Soph C Wendell Lewis struggled in two December starts at center. Back in a reserve role he's shot 7-of-9 in three SEC games.
*He's no ‘Swat' but Lewis is leading the team in blocks with 21.
*Freshman G Jalen Steele has been a reliable factor off the bench, shooting 7-of-13 in three SEC outings. And he has the only three-pointer by a bench Bulldog in SEC play so far.
*Senior G Riley Benock is 6-of-12 at the arc in SEC play and raised his season average to 45.3%.
*PG Brian Bryant had 14 points against Washington State on December 22, but has scored just 11 total points in the six games since.