MSU to face Arkansas

STARKVILLE, Miss. - On the heels of establishing a new all-time school standard for most consecutive wins to open a basketball season earlier in the week, the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs of Mississippi State (12-0, 1-0) return home for the first time since Dec. 13 by playing host to the Arkansas Razorbacks (8-4, 0-1) Saturday afternoon on the MSU campus. Tip-off for Saturday's intra-divisional SEC West clash is set for 2 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.

One of only nine remaining undefeated teams in NCAA Division I men's basketball, coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs claimed their record-breaking 12th straight win of the 2003-04 campaign by posting a come-from-behind 61-54 road victory over in-state rival Mississippi this past Wednesday in Oxford. Having won 13 consecutive home games dating back to last season, including a 6-0 home mark this year, MSU's most recent competition at "The Hump" resulted in an 82-70 home triumph over Xavier nearly one month ago on Dec. 13. Since then, the Bulldogs have played five straight games away from home, registering wins at Ole Miss, Arkansas-Little Rock, Tulane, Santa Clara, and against New Orleans in Tupelo.

Having limited the opposition to an average of only 56.4 points per game during the team's recent five-game stretch of road competition, MSU continues to rank second in blocked shots (5.58 bpg) and third in steals (10.17 spg) among the conference team leaders. Offensively, the Bulldogs rate fourth in the SEC in scoring offense (76.8 ppg) and fifth in field-goal percentage (47.1%).

Individually, the unbeaten Bulldogs feature the All-Star tandem of Timmy Bowers and Lawrence Roberts, who both rate among the league's Top 10 scoring leaders at 16.6 and 15.8 points per game, respectively. Having played an instrumental role in Wednesday's comeback win at Ole Miss with 16 second-half points (18 for the game), Bowers stands as the SEC's No. 8 scorer and third-leading playmaker (4.6 apg) in addition to ranking fourth in the league in made 3-pointers per game (2.5/gm). Roberts continues to average a double-double on the season by ranking 10th in the conference in scoring and second in rebounding (10.8 rpg) behind LSU's Jaime Lloreda. MSU's preseason Wooden Award candidate owns eight double-doubles on the year and 30 for his career.

The third of MSU's double digit-scoring triumvirate, junior guard Winsome Frazier averages 12.9 points an outing and leads the SEC in steals with an average of 3.2 swipes per contest. Rounding out the Bulldog starters, junior center Marcus Campbell contributes 9.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, while steady senior forward Branden Vincent averages a timely 6.8 points and 7.1 boards for the season.

Having dropped their SEC season opener at home, 66-55, to the LSU Tigers this past Tuesday, the Arkansas Razorbacks are 8-4 overall on the season. After dropping successive home decisions to Oklahoma State (73-58) and Western Carolina (62-59 in OT) just before Christmas, the Hogs had rebounded with an 81-74 victory at Tulsa and a 96-61 home win over North Texas prior to this week's setback to LSU in Fayetteville. Guided by second-year head coach Stan Heath, Arkansas is being led in scoring again this season by sophomore swingman Jonathon Modica at 18.9 points per game to rate third in the league. Freshman guard Ronnie Brewer averages 12.9 points an outing and paces the Razorbacks in rebounding (6.3 rpg), assists (3.7 apg) and steals (21).

The Dogs and Hogs have split the last three regular-season series with both teams winning on their respective home floors each of the past three seasons. Last year in Starkville, State handed Arkansas its biggest league loss (84-54) since joining the SEC, while the Razorbacks bounced back to beat MSU in Fayetteville (53-51) for the 12th straight season a year ago.

Mississippi State stays at home to welcome the nationally ranked Kentucky Wildcats next Tuesday for an 8 p.m. contest at Humphrey Coliseum. Next week's ESPN Super Tuesday contest in Starkville, featuring notable college hoops personality Dick Vitale, will mark a return matchup of last year's SEC Tournament championship game played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

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