No. 7 MSU puts SEC lead on line against Ole Miss

Besides all that's at stake, there's still plenty motivation anytime Mississippi State takes on in-state rival Ole Miss.<P> So it is as the Bulldogs prepare for a Saturday home date with the Rebels, the second meeting of the campaign between the SEC hoop rivals.

No. 7 ranked and Southeastern Conference leading Mississippi State (18-1, 7-1 SEC) is not likely to take this game lightly. There's a thing called pride at stake in the hoops version of the Egg Bowl. In addition, for MSU there's national ranking and the first place standing in the league.

The Magnolia State rivalry takes a back seat to none, and without a doubt, is one of the most fiercely contested rivalries in the country. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m. at The Hump joined by a FoxSports South regional television audience.

A sellout for weeks, there should be an unbelievable atmosphere for the renewal of this heated series. Sellouts at The Hump are becoming more common with the Bulldogs enjoying their best start in the SEC in nearly a half-century.

Mississippi State's newly-named "Road Warriors" moved up four slots Monday to No. 7 in both The Associated Press' and USA Today-ESPN men's college basketball polls.

Marching along at an SEC-best pace at the halfway mark, Mississippi State had no mid-week game before the weekend rematch with the Rebels, who've been playing very well, particularly in wins over rugged SEC West opponent LSU and nationally-ranked South Carolina.

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury, whose Dogs won their fourth straight road game Saturday against Auburn 73-68, has been saying all along he'd just as soon keep the same routine as they've had since the beginning of the SEC pennant chase in early January.

"I'd prefer to keep our rhythm right now," he said. "We're in rhythm and we've been doing the things to prepare, but these things you can't control.

"Ole Miss is playing very good right now. It's a rival game so we'll have to be prepared."

Senior Justin Reed, who leads the SEC in scoring with a 19.1 average, had 32 points to help hand the South Carolina Gamecocks their second league loss. The 6-8 forward had 11 rebounds to go with a career-high 32 points to give him a double-double.

Mississippi State was able to hold Reed's points down (12), but couldn't keep the durable frontliner off the glass as he pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds in the first meeting in Oxford to launch SEC play for both teams. However, the Bulldogs prevailed, 61-54, rallying from a double-digit deficit with roughly eight minutes remaining to snare their fifth straight win in the series.

Senior co-captain Timmy Bowers, 10th leading scorer in the SEC with a 15.8 average, led the Bulldogs in the comeback win with 18 points. Lawrence Roberts, who ranks seventh in the league with a 16.6 average, had 11 points in his first game against the Rebels.

It's difficult to double up on the Rebels all-star candidate with the likes of Aaron Harper, a game-breaking threat behind the arc, center Tommie Eddie, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the first meeting, and guards Justin Johnson and Todd Abernathy in the lineup.

In addition to Roberts and Bowers, Mississippi State has a couple of unsung heroes in 6-8 forward Branden Vincent, guard Winsome Frazier, who leads the SEC in steals with a 2.95 average and can shoot from the perimeter, joined forward Shane Power, who hit 4-of-4 off the line to help seal MSU's win over Auburn last weekend.

MSU can call on part-time starter 7-0 center Marcus Campbell, along with freshman point guard Gary Ervin, sophomore 7-2 center Wesley Morgan, freshman Dietric Slater and senior center Lincoln Smith.

The Bulldogs top the league in rebounding, pulling down an average of an even 40 a game and rank fourth in scoring with a 75.6 average. Roberts is second in the SEC in rebounding with an average of 10 a game. Reed is the Rebels top rebounder averaging 8.3 a game.

Mississippi State holds a 127-101 series lead over Ole Miss in the 229th meeting that dates back to the 1913-14 season. The Bulldogs topped the Rebels 68-64 in overtime in the last meeting in Starkville a year ago.

Revived Lady Dogs host rival Ole Miss

If the SEC battle between Ole Miss and No. 7 Mississippi State doesn't satisfy your hoops appetite, wait, there's more! Mississippi State Coach Sharon Fanning's Lady Bulldogs, winners of four of their last five including three SEC victories, host the Ole Miss Lady Rebels Sunday.

Tip-off for the SEC instate battle is set for 1:20 p.m. at The Hump joined by an ESPN2 national television audience. The league match features one of the nation's most talented and exciting players, Tan White of Tupelo, Miss.

Mississippi State stepped outside the SEC Tuesday night to post an impressive, 73-54, win over UNO at New Orleans, La. They were led by White, one of four Lady Dogs scoring in double figures, with 20 points. She also had 12 rebounds, marking a nifty double-double.

Seneca Anderson and Louisiana-product Blessing Chekwa had 11 points each while Tiania Burns scored 10. It marked the fourth time this season MSU has had four players in twin digits.

It's a marquee SEC basketball weekend in Starkville. Don't miss it!

Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer who is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News, writes a weekly article for Gene's Page. He can be reached by email at

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