STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The Mississippi State Bulldogs tip off the 2001-02 regular season with a three-game basketball homestand by playing host to Nicholls State University Saturday night on the MSU campus. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.

Coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs open the regular-season slate this weekend after splitting a pair of exhibition contests earlier this month. Prior to dropping an 86-75 preseason decision last Saturday to the Birmingham Bullets of England, MSU opened exhibition action by claiming a 110-89 victory over the Branch West Basketball Academy of California on Nov. 3.

Individually in preseason competition for the Bulldogs, sophomore frontliner Mario Austin averaged a team-leading 20.0 points per game and shot 53 percent (17-of-32) from the field in the two exhibition outings. Junior forward Michal Ignerski, a third-team junior college all-American last year, followed at 11.5 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds per outing, while freshman center Marcus Campbell and junior guard Derrick Zimmerman both averaged 10.0 points a contest during the preseason.

By way of Thidodaux, La., and the Southland Conference, the Nicholls State Colonels are also opening their 2001-02 regular season Saturday night in Starkville. This past Tuesday, Nicholls State dropped a 73-70 exhibition decision to Team Ezybonds of Australia. Having posted a 14-14 overall record and tying for second place in the SLC standings with a 12-8 league mark a year ago, coach Rickey Broussard's Colonels begin the new season without the services of four players, including the team's top two returning scorers Earnest Porter and Sean Hughley, all of whom are expected back by Dec. 15 pending their academic progress. With newcomers Damien Lennon and Brandon Rutley also sidelined for NSU's first six games of the 2001-02 season, the Colonels will have the services of just eight players to begin the new campaign.

In head-to-head competition, Mississippi State posted an 81-65 home triumph over Nicholls State seven years ago (Jan. 30, 1995) in the only previous hardwood meeting between the two teams. The Bulldogs went on to post a 22-8 overall record and 12-4 league mark that season en route to claiming a share of the SEC Western Division crown and advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16.

Mississippi State has won 13 of its last 15 basketball season openers dating back to the 1986-87 campaign. The Bulldogs have also prevailed in 34 of their last 35 home season openers spanning back to the 1966-67 season.

This year's Bulldog contingent continues its current three-game, season opening homestand by playing host to Florida A&M and Arkansas-Little Rock on Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Tip-off for both upcoming contests is set for 7 p.m. at MSU's Humphrey Coliseum.

Gene's Page Top Stories