MSU travels to Alabama to end regular season

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Bidding to capture their first overall SEC title outright since the 1962-63 season, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs of Mississippi State (24-2, 13-2) conclude regular-season action by traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (16-10, 8-7) Saturday afternoon at the Capstone. Tip-off for the 171st series renewal of this SEC Western Division rivalry is set for 2 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum, and the game will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot Sports.

Not only will a win this weekend in Tuscaloosa give MSU its first outright SEC regular-season championship in more than 40 years, a victory over the Tide would also establish new single-season school standards for most regular-season wins overall and in conference play. The Bulldogs previously posted 24 regular-season wins during the 1961-62 and 1958-59 campaigns, when coach Babe McCarthy's squads both went 24-1 overall and 13-1 in conference action en route to claiming SEC championships. Prior to the current campaign, coach Richard Williams' 1990-91 Bulldog club was the most recent of five previous State squads to record 13 league wins in a season by going 13-5 in conference play to earn a share of the school's last SEC overall title (with LSU) in the final season before the league went to divisional play. This year's MSU contingent has also solidified the school's best 16-game league mark since divisional play began in 1991-92 by bettering the 12-4 SEC record posted by State's 1994-95 NCAA Sweet 16 ballclub.

Looking to record career win No. 125, sixth-year MSU head coach Rick Stansbury enters this weekend's regular-season finale having won exactly two-thirds of his games as the Bulldogs' head man since being hired in 1998. Currently boasting the third-highest career winning percentage in the school's 92-year hoops history with a 124-62 (.667) all-time coaching record, Stansbury ranks behind only Williams and McCarthy on State's all-time charts for career victories overall and SEC wins.

With their first opportunity to avenge one of their two losses on the season this weekend against Alabama, the Bulldogs own league-best records of 24-2 overall and 13-2 in SEC play after registering a 105-91 home victory over Auburn this past Tuesday. The 105 points scored by MSU against the Tigers earlier in the week marked State's highest SEC scoring output overall since 1979-80 (110 points against Vanderbilt). Now 11-0 on the road (7-0 in SEC play), MSU is also bidding to go undefeated on the road for the first time in recent school history.

On the heels of their most productive offensive performance overall since scoring 107 points against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 1999-2000, the Bulldogs continue to top the SEC in scoring offense (76.4 ppg), scoring margin (+10.6) and field-goal percentage (47.9%) in league games. Having outrebounded four of its last five foes by double figures, State also paces the conference in virtually every rebounding category for all games as well as SEC contests.

Named this week to the first-ever, five-man Adolph F. Rupp All-American Team, junior forward/center Lawrence Roberts continues his pursuit of this year's SEC Player of the Year honor by ranking among the league's leaders in scoring (17.1 ppg; 6th), rebounding (10.1 rpg; 2nd) and field-goal percentage (54.4%; 6th). The two-time SEC Player of the Week enters the final weekend of regular-season play leading the conference and ranking tied for fourth nationally with 15 double-doubles on the year. The other half of State's All-Star tandem, senior guard Timmy Bowers is also bidding for first-team, all-SEC recognition by ranking as the league's No. 11 scorer (15.2 ppg) and third-leading playmaker (4.6 apg). A finalist for this year's inaugural Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award, Bowers also ranks fourth in the SEC in made 3-pointers per game (2.4 treys/gm) and sixth in steals (2.0 spg).

Owners of a four-game winning streak and battling LSU for second place in the SEC's Western Division race, Alabama owns a 16-10 overall record and 8-7 SEC mark after claiming a 72-68 overall road win over Arkansas this past Wednesday in Fayetteville. Guided by sixth-year head coach and former Alabama standout guard Mark Gottfried, the Crimson Tide is paced by current SEC Player of the Week Kennedy Winston, a sophomore forward who is averaging a team-leading 17.3 points per game to rank fourth in the SEC. Junior guard Earnest Shelton stands 13th among the league's top scorers at 15.0 points per outing.

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