Bulldogs to battle Bulldogs in the Hump

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Riding the momentum of consecutive SEC road wins over No. 17 Florida and LSU within the past week, the 19th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-1, 4-1) return to the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum to begin a brief two-game homestand by first playing host to the Georgia Bulldogs (9-6, 1-3) Saturday. Tip-off for the 92nd series renewal of this inter-divisional hoops battle is set for noon at MSU's Humphrey Coliseum, and the contest will be aired by JP Sports.

Ranked in the national polls for the third consecutive season, coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs are 15-1 overall and 4-1 in league play after claiming an impressive 79-68 road victory over 17th-ranked Florida this past Wednesday in Gainesville. While giving MSU its best SEC start since going 5-0 to open up the 1993-94 season, the win at Florida marked the Bulldogs' first victory at the O'Connell Center since their 1995-96 Final Four season, as well as snapping an 18-game winless streak against Top 25-ranked SEC opponents on the road in a streak that had also dated back to the 1995-96 campaign. In addition, State's 11-point road win at Florida earlier in the week marked the Gators' first double-digit home loss since 1998-99 and was only their ninth home setback in 86 decisions at the O'Connell Center in a string also dating back to the 1998-99 campaign.

Now undefeated in eight games played away from Humphrey Coliseum on the season, including an SEC-high seven true road wins, the Bulldogs return home to "The Hump" for the first time since seeing their Coliseum-record, 14-game home winning streak snapped by virtue of a heartbreaking, last-second 67-66 home setback to then-No. 5 Kentucky back on Jan. 13. With a 32-4 composite home record (15-3 in SEC play) over the last three seasons, Mississippi State is now 7-1 at home this season, having knocked off SEC West foe Arkansas, 80-62, two weeks ago in the team's conference home opener.

Statistically, the Bulldogs now rank third in the SEC in team field-goal percentage (47.0%) after their 52 percent shooting night against the Gators, while rating fourth among the conference leaders in both scoring offense (75.7 ppg) and scoring margin (+12.0 ppg) for all games on the year. On the defensive end of the floor after holding the SEC's top offensive team (Florida) to just 68 points on only 39 percent field-goal shooting this past Wednesday in Gainesville, State stands second in the league in rebounding (40.2 rpg), rebounding margin (+6.2 rpg) and steals (10.1 spg) for all games thus far this season.

On the heels of a dominating 21-point, 14-rebound performance on the road against the 17th-ranked Florida Gators, junior standout Lawrence Roberts firmly entrenched his name within this year's midseason list of SEC Player of the Year candidates by registering his league-leading 11th double-double of the season and 33rd of his brilliant three-year collegiate career. The former Baylor transfer enters the weekend ranked seventh in the SEC in scoring (16.5 ppg), second in rebounding (10.8 rpg) and fifth in field-goal percentage (56.8%) for all games, though he stands second in both scoring (17.0 ppg) and rebounding (10.2 rpg) for conference games only. Continuing to supply his valuable senior leadership as a two-time team co-captain, preseason all-SEC guard Timmy Bowers ranks as the league's No. 10 scorer (15.6 ppg) and third-leading playmaker (4.2 apg), in addition to rating fourth in made 3-pointers per game (2.25 treys/game) and tied for fifth in steals (1.94 spg). Already a part of 81 wins during his stellar four-year State career, Bowers will surpass former Bulldog forward Jay Walton in becoming the school's all-time winningest hoops player with MSU's next victory.

Also of mention for the Bulldogs, junior swingman Shane Power is coming off his finest MSU performance to date in just his second State start, as the former Iowa State transfer tallied a season-high 15 points and handed out a career-most seven assists at Florida earlier in the week. The Indiana native is averaging 7.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest on the year.

Guided by first-year head coach Dennis Felton, Georgia is 9-6 overall and 1-3 in SEC play after upsetting Kentucky, 65-57, last weekend at Rupp Arena prior to dropping a 45-42 home decision to Alabama this past Wednesday in Athens. The Bulldogs are led by a quartet of senior starters who all average in double figures in the scoring column. Current SEC Player of the Week Rashad Wright paces the Bulldogs in both scoring (14.5 ppg) and assists (3.1 apg), followed by veterans Jonas Hayes (12.9 ppg), Damien Wilkins (12.5) and Chris Daniels (10.1).

Gene's Page Top Stories