*This is the first time MSU has played Xavier on their home court. In fact, this is the first game a Bulldog team has ever played in Cincinnati. All three games against the University of Cincinnati were played at neutral sites. The last time a MSU team visited Ohio was in 1979, to Dayton.
About the Musketeers
Last March, Xavier became 2004's NCAA Tournament edition of Cinderella--or in MSU minds, Butler—with an impressive postseason showing to reach the Elite Eight at State's (and Sweet 16 victim Texas') expense. The Muskies' tear actually began at midseason and carried them through an upset championship in the Atlantic-10 Tournament after XU had finished just third in their Division. But after the glory of a 26-11 year, Xavier is in a rebuilding mode. Not only did they lose the shooting stars of March, with three starters graduating, but Coach Thad Motta was plucked away by Ohio State. To keep some consistency in the program XU handed the clipboard to Sean Miller, who was associated head coach for three years with a trio of 26-win seasons. This is Miller's first head job, though he has been coaching college ball for a dozen years and he has worked for Stu Jackson, Herb Sendek, and Ralph Miller. His first XU team is off to a tough start, though a 13-point win at Miami (Fla.) shows the Muskies have the pieces to put another NCAA participant together. This is a balanced scoring squad with five players averaging between 12.8 and 9.4 points, and Miller makes free use of his bench. The leading light is former Vanderbilt forward Brian Thornton, who nearly nets a double-double at 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. He did not play against State last year, but Bulldog fans have bitter Orlando memories of Dedrick Finn (22 points) and Justin Doellman (13). At least now the Musketeers are the ones getting burned from long-range now, as XU is allowing 42% shooting from the arc. They also have negative ratios in turnovers and blocked shots.
Probable Starting Lineups
XU: G Dedrick Finn, 6-1 JR, 9.6 ppg, 4.6 apg; G Keith Jackson, 6-6 SR, 5.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg; C Justin Doellman, 6-9 SO, 10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg; F Brian Thornton, 6-8 JR, 12.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg; F Justin Cage, 6-6 SO, 10.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg.
XU Alternates: G Stanley Burrell, 6-3 FR, 9.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg; F Josh Duncan, 6-9 FR, 5.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg; G Churchill Odia, 6-6 FR, 2.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 7.4 ppg, 4.5 apg; G Winsome Frazier, 6-4 SR, 13.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 24 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 6.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg; F Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 10.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 16 3pts.
Scoring: MSU 70.0, XU 69.4
Scoring Defense: MSU 58.7, XU 67.6
Rebounding: MSU 43.0, XU 32.8
Shooting: MSU 42.4%, XU 47.1%
Defense: MSU 36.6%, XU 46.1%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 33.2% (67of202), XU 35.4% (35of99)
This game concludes what was to have been a three-year, three-December games series between the SEC and Atlantic-10 schools. State has captured the two previous scheduled meetings: winning 71-61 in Madison Square Garden in 2002, and 82-70 a year ago in Humphrey Coliseum. But the luck of the 2004 NCAA Tournament draw had these teams also meet last March in the second round at Orlando, with Xavier scoring a 89-74 win to end MSU's season. State still has a 3-1 overall lead, as the 1963-64 Bulldogs beat Xavier in the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans.
Did You Know?
XU Coach Sean Miller started four years at point guard for Pitt and finished as the school career assist leader after 1992.
Xavier has an enrollment of 6,600.
*Coming off the win at New Orleans Monday night, Mississippi State takes a 12-game winning streak in non-SEC road contests into this weekend. That streak dates back to December 30, 2000, starting at Arizona.
*More impressive perhaps is the 13-0 streak State has going in all true road games, which is tied for first according to the NCAA (with Gonzaga) currently. The first dozen of those wins were all last season when the Bulldogs were acclaimed as the ‘Road Warriors.' But, losing to Arizona on a neutral court earlier this month ended State's 17-game December win streak.
*State is 10-6 in games against Atlantic-10 teams.
*Senior Winsome Frazier has 126 career steals and needs two more to pass Al Perry (1975-78) for eighth on the MSU list. He needs just seven more treys to catch Tang Hamilton (1998-01) for sixth in State records.
*Senior Lawrence Roberts leads active NCAA players in career double-doubles with 42, 20 of them at State. Counting his two seasons at Baylor, Roberts now has 1,529 points and 904 rebounds. That latter figure ranks first for current NCAA players.
*The Bulldogs are shooting just 33% from the three-point line, but they have made ten or more treys three times already this season.
Xavier is home for a Tuesday night game with Lehigh, starting a four-game homestand. State is back in The Hump for Monday night's game with Florida A&M.