Currently ranked 22nd nationally according to CollegeRPI.com and also 23rd in the most recent Sagarin Ratings, MSU will be looking to extend an 11-game winning streak in SEC season-opening contests that dates back to the 1990-91 campaign. The last time State dropped a league opener was to Kentucky at Rupp Arena during the 1989-90 season.
Three wins away from tying Stanfield Hitt (68-69; 1940-47) for fifth place on the school's all-time wins list, Stansbury (65-43 career record) will be bidding for his first-ever victory over his homestate Kentucky Wildcats. Born in Louisville and a native of Brandenburg, Ky., Stansbury is presently winless in three previous tries against UK since taking the MSU head coaching position in 1999.
As a team, the Bulldogs are currently leading the SEC and ranked fourth among all NCAA Division I teams in field-goal percentage. Collectively shooting 51.2 percent from the field on the year, MSU has connected on at least 54 percent of its field-goal attempts in nine of the team's 14 games this season, including a season-high 65-percent shooting effort last Saturday at Tulane.
Individually, sophomore Mario Austin has recently taken over the team's scoring lead (14.8 ppg; 12th in the SEC) from senior Marckell Patterson (14.6 ppg; 14th in the SEC). Coming off a 15-point outing against Tulane in which he hit all seven of his shots from the field, Austin is also ranked third in the league in field-goal percentage (57.0%) and fourth in rebounding (7.9 rpg). Fresh from a career-high, 22-point effort against the Green Wave, sophomore Timmy Bowers is now averaging in double figures as well at 10.9 points per contest. After an 11-assist, 11-rebound performance last week at Tulane, junior guard Derrick Zimmerman tops the SEC and stands sixth nationally in assists (6.9 apg).
Owning a 78-16 all-time series lead, including a current five-game series win streak over MSU, Kentucky is ranked sixth nationally in this week's AP poll and eighth in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll. Guided by fifth-year head coach Tubby Smith, UK begins SEC play with a 9-2 mark after posting a 101-67 neutral-site win over Tulane this past Wednesday in Louisville. The Cats are paced by senior forward Tayshaun Prince - the reigning SEC Player of the Year and current SEC Player of the Week - at 18.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.