*MSU last won consecutive games from Tennessee in 1995-96. They have not won repeated trip to Knoxville since 1978 and '79, before TBA was built.
*Bulldog guard Jalen Steele is returning to his home town of Knoxville for a second time in a MSU uniform. But he will get to play this time, having missed out on the 2011 game with a knee injury.
*Don't expect either side to throw many surprises at the other. Rick Ray and Cuonzo Martin were assistants together at Purdue in 2007 and '08 and know the respective styles very well.
*This game matches the SEC's two poorest-outside-shooting teams, with Tennessee 13th in treys per game and State 14th.
The Opponent: The first act was exciting for Cuonzo Martin. He temporarily soothed many critics of Tennessee's uneasy transition from the Bruce Pearl years by winning eight of the last nine regular-season games and finishing second overall in the league. It wasn't enough to make a NCAA bid though, and now another slow SEC start has the grumbling going. Certainly more was expected early with five of the top seven contributors back. There might be some second-season adjustments going on here, such as with guard Trae Golden. The leading scorer of last season, he's lost his starting job after a six-game shooting slump. But when subbed-in the guard does deliver assists. Conversely, bigger guard Jordan McCrae has returned to the starting lineup in time for SEC season and responded with 20-plus points each time out. Only Mississippi State can respect the Vols' outside offense, and it's pretty clear what senior Skylar McBee plays for; of his 27 baskets this year 25 are treys. No, this team is built in Martin's mold of defense and physical play, which suits bruiser Jarnell Stokes just fine. He's seventh in SEC rebounding while throwing his weight around at each end. Kenny Hall is having a nice senior season in the paint as well, and while he doesn't shoot often his does pick his pops nicely. Help on the glass comes from sub- Yemi Makanjuola, who rarely shoots but does get to missed shots. Martin has a much longer bench than the Bulldogs, he just uses it sparingly so far. And the Vols have one of the stranger SEC schedules, because next week they face two of the opponents--Ole Miss and Alabama—whom they have already played and lost to. At least the quick rematches offer a good gauge on how fast Tennessee has adjusted.
Latest Starting Lineups:
TENNESSEE: F Jarnell Stokes, 6-8 SO, 10.7ppg, 7.5rpg, 52%fgs; F Kenny Hall, 6-9 SR, 6.5ppg, 5.9rpg, 53%fgs; G Jordan McRae, 6-5 JR, 13.9ppg, 22 3ptrs, 78% fts; G Josh Richardson, 6-6 SO, 8.3ppg, 5.1rpg; G Skylar McBee, 6-3 SR, 5.9ppg, 25 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: G Trae Golden, 6-1 JR, 10.9ppg, 63 asts; C Yemi Makanjuola, 6-9 SO, 2.5ppg, 3.4rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Colin Borchert, 6-8 JR, 7.4ppg, 4.7rpg, 21 blks; C Gavin Ware, 6-9 FR, 8.1ppg, 7.0rpg, 52%fgs, 16 blks; G Craig Sword, 6-3 FR, 9.6ppg, 3.1rpg, 28 stls; G Trivante Bloodman, 6-0 SO, 5.7ppg, 44 asts; G Jalen Steele, 6-3 JR, 10.6ppg, 3.6rpg, 39% 3ptrs
Top Backups: F Rocquez Johnson, 6-7 SO, 11.4ppg, 5.0rpg, 11 blks; G Fred Thomas, 6-5 FR, 10.0ppg, 24 3ptrs; G Tyson Cunningham, 6-3 JR, 2.7ppg, 2.8rpg.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 61.9, TEN 65.2
Scoring Defense: MSU 63.3, TEN 62.7
FG Shooting: MSU 41.0%, TEN 42.7%
FG Defense: MSU 40.5%, TEN 40.9%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 27.8%, TEN 29.3%
Rebounding: MSU 35.9, TEN 36.9
Rebound Margin: MSU -0.4, TEN +4.1
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 66.1%, TEN 66.2%
Turnovers: MSU -0.5, TEN -1.3
BULLDOG NOTES: *State has used six lineups through 15 games, but now has started the same squad in all three SEC outings.
*PG Trivante Bloodman is the only Dog to open all 15 games.
*The Bulldogs are 7th-best in SEC shooting defense on the whole, but last in three-point defense.
*Though they are one of the shorter overall lineups in the league, State is 6th in SEC blocks. F Colin Borchert comes in at 5th this week.
*Maybe the most amazing statistic in the league is that despite a limited roster no Bulldog ranks in the SEC's top-ten for minutes played.
*State failed to make a 3-point basket in the South Carolina game, ending a 262- game streak with at least one trey. But it meant this was the first Bulldog win of the three-point era without a made-trey.
*G Jalen Steele has been hot or cold this month. He was 5-of-12 against UNO, and 7-of-16 against Georgia; but followed those games with 2-of-8 outings against South Carolina and Alabama.
*Since returning from his right (shooting) wrist injury Steele is 19-of-53 overall, and 11-of-28 at the arc. He did have a 21-point performance at Georgia last weekend though going 4-of-8 at the arc.
*In 67 games Steele now has 110 career treys. He needs 132 to crack the program's top-ten.
*The Dogs are fourth-best in SEC steals, and G Craig Sword is 6th individually. *G Craig Sword has been a SEC-season surprise with 43 points and 16-of-31 shooting in his three conference games.
*But Sword might be leading the league in turnovers, if such a stat was kept. He's lost the ball 14 times in the last three games.
*C Gavin Ware is 10th in SEC rebounding, and second-best among league freshmen.
*Ware had 43 total minutes in his first two SEC games. Wednesday night he clocked a season-high 33.
*Ware is certainly selective as a shooter. He's only attempted 17 of them the last four games, but made 9 of them.
*F Rocquez Johnson is 20-of-25 on free throws the last five games.
*G Fred Thomas might be finding his range now. He's made four of his last nine trey-tries, having shot 23% for the season up to then.