Off to a 6-0 start or better for the third time in the six seasons that Rick Stansbury has been at State's head coaching helm, the undefeated Bulldogs most recently recorded an exciting 86-84 home victory over the UAB Blazers last Saturday. Offsetting a brilliant 38-point performance by senior guard Mo Finley, State overcame a nine-point, second-half deficit a week ago against the Blazers en route to earning its sixth straight win on the young season. Upon snapping Western Kentucky's 39-game home winning streak with an 81-75 road victory over the Hilltoppers back on Nov. 29, MSU opened its current two-week homestand by posting wins over Louisiana-based Southland Conference schools McNeese State (92-69) and Louisiana-Monroe (76-52) on Dec. 1 and 3, respectively.
As a team, the Bulldogs are averaging 82.7 points per game to rate third in the SEC and 27th nationally, according to this week's team statistical rankings. State is thus far shooting a collective 48.8 percent from the field, while limiting the opposition to 39.7 percent field-goal shooting on the year. Defensively, MSU also ranks 30th nationally in rebounding margin (+8.8 rpg) after winning the battle of the boards in five of its first six outings of the season.
Individually, State's veteran backcourt tandem of Winsome Frazier and Timmy Bowers pace a quartet of double-figure scorers at 16.7 and 16.2 points per game, respectively, to rate 10th and 11th in the league. A junior from Miami, Frazier ranks second in the SEC in steals (2.5 spg) and fifth in made three-point field goals per game (2.5/gm). Bowers, a preseason all-SEC pick and senior co-captain, rates third in the league in treys made per game (2.8/gm) and also stands tied for third among the conference's leading playmakers at 4.8 assists per contest.
Needing 15 more points to reach the 1,000-point mark for his career, preseason Wooden Award candidate Lawrence Roberts continues to average a double-double on the year at 15.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per outing. He presently ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally in rebounding. With a league-high four double-double performances for the year, Roberts is a collective one point and two rebounds shy of having recorded a double-double in all six outings this season. Most recently, the Houston native capped a 19-point, nine-rebound effort by hitting the game-winning basket in last Saturday's two-point home win over UAB.
Having participated in the NCAA Tournament each of the past three seasons, the Musketeers of Xavier University bring a 4-2 record to Starkville after posting a 55-36 victory at Miami of Ohio this past Tuesday. Out of the Atlantic 10 Conference by way of Cincinnati, Xavier opened the current campaign by claiming home wins over Coppin State (62-37), Mercer (72-58) and Oakland (76-66) to win the Dell BCA Classic held at its own Cintas Center. Both of XU's losses have come away from home, having fallen at Ball State, 75-63, and dropping an 80-77 overtime decision to Indiana in Indianapolis during The Wooden Tradition event on Nov. 25 and 29, respectively. Guided by third-year head coach Thad Matta, the Musketeers are headlined by all-America candidate Romain Sato, who leads the team in both scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.2 rpg) as a 6-5 senior guard. Backcourt mates Lionel Chalmers and Dedrick Finn are averaging 11.8 and 9.3 points per game, respectively, for Xavier.
State will next head to Tupelo to play host to the University of New Orleans on Tuesday, Dec. 16, in the nightcap of an MSU basketball doubleheader to be played at the BancorpSouth Center. The Bulldogs will meet UNO beginning at 7:30 p.m., following the Lady Bulldogs' 4:45 p.m. contest against Tennessee-Martin. Tickets are available through the BancorpSouth Center Ticket Office (662-841-6528) as well as at all Ticket King locations.