MSU faces LSU in Baton Rouge

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The the 20th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-1, 2-1) travel to Baton Rouge to take on the Tigers of LSU (12-1, 2-0) Saturday afternoon at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the Louisiana State University campus. Tip-off for the 184th renewal of this long-standing conference rivalry is set for 2 p.m. CT, and the contest will be televised regionally by Jefferson-Pilot Sports with Tim Brando calling the play-by-play action and Larry Conley providing the color analysis.

Ranked 20th in this week's Associated Press wire service poll and 24th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, the Bulldogs own a 13-1 overall record and 2-1 conference mark after dropping a heartbreaking 67-66 home decision to the fifth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats this past Tuesday. The last-second setback to UK earlier in the week snapped MSU's school-record, 14-game Humphrey Coliseum winning streak, as well as halting the team's new all-time standard for most consecutive victories to open a season at 13 straight games. Coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs began defense of their 2003 SEC Western Division title by claiming a come-from-behind 61-54 road win over rival Mississippi and posting an 80-62 home triumph over divisional foe Arkansas last week in conference action.

As a team offensively, Mississippi State enters this weekend's action ranked fourth in the SEC in both scoring offense (76.3 ppg) and field-goal percentage (47.1%). Having outrebounded both Kentucky (39-27) and Arkansas (45-32) by double figures in their last two games, the Bulldogs have moved up to fourth among the league leaders in rebounding margin (+6.6 rpg). Also on the defensive end of the court, State continues to stand second in the SEC in blocked shots (5.4 bpg) and third in steals (10.1 spg).

Individually, the Bulldogs are paced by the potent All-Star tandem of junior Lawrence Roberts and senior co-captain Timmy Bowers, who both rank among the SEC's Top 10 scoring leaders at 16.7 (7th) and 16.1 (9th) points per game, respectively. A preseason Wooden Award and SEC Newcomer of the Year candidate, Roberts also ranks second in the league in rebounding (11.0 rpg; T-6th in NCAA) behind LSU's Jaime Lloreda and fifth in field-goal percentage (57.5%) right behind Lloreda. The former Baylor transfer by way of Houston registered his league-leading 10th double-double of the season and 32nd of his collegiate career with Tuesday's 15-point, 14-rebound effort versus No. 5 Kentucky. Bowers, a fellow preseason all-SEC selection, ranks third in the conference in both assists (4.4 apg) and made 3-pointers per game (2.6/gm). The former Mississippi High School Player of the Year from Gulfport has scored 1,077 career points after this week's 20-point effort against the Wildcats, and is three points shy of moving into 24th place on MSU's all-time scoring list. Having tied a career high with six 3-pointers in Tuesday's home loss to Kentucky, Bowers needs five more treys to move into sole possession of second place on the school's career list behind Darryl Wilson. Bowers presently ranks fourth on MSU's all-time chart behind Marcus Grant (164) and Tony Watts (166) with 162 career made 3-pointers.

Currently atop the SEC's Western Division standings with a 2-0 league mark, the LSU Tigers sport a 12-1 overall record after posting a 68-60 non-conference road win over the University of New Orleans this past Monday. Guided by seventh-year head coach and former Mississippi State assistant coach John Brady, LSU is led by SEC Player of the Year candidate Lloreda, who currently leads the conference and ranks second nationally in rebounding (11.8 rpg), along with ranking tied for third in the league in scoring (18.1 ppg) and fourth in field-goal percentage (59.4%). The Tigers also feature one of the nation's top rookies in 6-8, 240-pound forward Brandon Bass, who presently tops all Southeastern Conference freshmen in scoring (14.0 ppg), rebounding (7.9 rpg) and blocks (2.2 bpg).

Though the Tigers own a 97-86 all-time lead in this series that dates all the way back to the 1908-09 basketball campaign, Mississippi State has prevailed in 17 of the last 22 hardwood meetings between the two teams dating back a decade to the 1993-94 season. MSU and LSU have split the last five regular-season series, though the Bulldogs have knocked off the Tigers in semifinal-round action of the SEC Tournament during each of the past two seasons.

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