*Coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs bring a 12-2 record and six-game winning streak into conference play, along with national rankings of #18 (Associated Press) and #21 (coaches/ESPN). Both losses have come to ranked opponents, to then-#5 Syracuse and then-#21 Arizona, and on technically neutral courts in the middle of those team's conference territories. The Tigers are unranked and 9-4 coming into their league opener.
*This is the sixth time in seven seasons under Stansbury that State has opened SEC play on the home court. Last year was the exception, with the Dogs tipping off the league season at Mississippi. State has won four of these past five league-lidlifters played at The Hump. None of those games were against Auburn.
About the Tigers
It's a new era for Auburn hoops. After ten years Cliff Ellis was let go in the aftermath of a 14-14 season, no postseason play, and a NCAA investigation that produced minimal sanctions (one scholarship lost) but damaged the program over its lengthy course. Jeff Lebo, a rising light in the business, was hired to turn the Tigers back into contenders. It won't be easy, though graduating four starters and six other lettermen lost from a squad that struggled to go 5-11 SEC actually makes this a prime time for Auburn to start afresh. Lebo has certainly brought a new approach to how the Tigers play the game, maximizing a guard-heavy lineup with fast-paced offense and outside shooting. The gameplan for this season was clear from game-one when Auburn went 18-of-41 from the three-point arc in a win over Temple. In 13 games the Tigers have made 118 treys, shooting them at a 35% clip, and everyone on the court has the green light to throw up longballs. That includes starting ‘center' Quinnel Brown, a 6-6 senior and the tallest Tiger (Army is the only other D-I team as short as Auburn). With just three seniors and two starters back Lebo has brought in seven freshmen and one juco transfer, and he found a good kid in rookie Toney Douglas. The freshman currently leads the SEC in scoring at 19.2 points. Senior Ian Young has thrown in 35 treys to average almost 16 points, but he and fellow senior Ronny LeMelle have had some injury problems in the early season. Needless to say, AU's weakness has been on defense overall and the backbords in particular. That latter area is where Mississippi State has a major advantage…if the Tigers are missing from long-range. What has Stansbury worried is that Auburn will have the hot hand from outside, which would make for a most interesting SEC tip-off for both squads.
Probable Starting Lineups
Auburn: F Quinnel Brown, 6-6 SR, 13.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg; F Daniel Hayes, 6-5 FR, 8.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg; G Toney Douglas, 6-1 FR, 19.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 22 3ptrs; G Nathan Watson, 6-3 SR, 11.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 25 3ptrs; G Ian Young, 6-3 SR, 15.8, 4.2 rpg, 35 3ptrs.
Tiger Alternates: G Frank Tolbert, 6-3 FR, 7.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg; G Brett Howell, 6-1 SO, 1.8 ppg. 0.8 rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.0 ppg, 5.9 apg; G Winsome Frazier, 6-4 SR, 14.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 34 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 5.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 18.4 ppg, 11.5 rpg; F Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 10.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 24 3pts.
Scoring: MSU 75.0 ppg, AUB 79.5 ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 51.4 ppg, AUB 73.5 ppg
Rebounding: MSU 43.9 rpg, AUB 35.2 rpg
Rebounding Margin: MSU +10.5, AUB –3.6
Shooting: MSU 44.7%, AUB 45.8%
Shooting Defense: MSU 38.0%, AUB 44.8%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 33.7 (89 of 254), AUB 35.2% (118 of 325)
Though Mississippi State has owned Auburn for three season now the Tigers still hold a 65-56 advantage overall. The Bulldogs bring a seven-game winning streak into this meeting including four-straight wins at Humphrey Coliseum. Prior to that, Auburn had won nine consecutive games from 1997 into 2001, the longest streak in the series. The schools first played each other on hardwood in 1915, but the series did not become an annual event until 1941. Since 1967 these SEC rivals have met at least twice a year and three times they have played in SEC Tournaments…last in 1996 when MSU won the league meet. State is 33-24 in games played in Starkville, and 18-10 against the Tigers in The Hump.
Did You Know?
*The last time State and Auburn began a SEC season playing each other was in 1992-93, with MSU beating the Tigers 77-71 at The Hump.
*Auburn averaged just over 3,400 fans for their seven pre-SEC home games. State drew an average of almost 5,800 to their five home games in November/December.
*There are two Alabamians playing for State—guard Jamall Edmondson of Montgomery and center Walter Sharpe of Birmingham. There are no Mississippi natives on the Tiger roster.
*This non-televised game is the exception for MSU this season, as 12 of the 16 SEC contests will be shown either nationally or regionally.
*State goes into this SEC season after winning their last 14 non-conference, regular-season road games.
*Senior Lawrence Roberts opens SEC season as the league's current Player of the Week. In fact, he was already the POTW for the previous week, then won the recognition a second-straight time by scoring 25 points with 19 rebounds against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl Classic. In his last four games Roberts has averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds, and he is bidding to be the first Bulldogs to score 20 or more points in five-straight games since Jeff Malone in 1983.
*Roberts leads active NCAA players in career double-doubles with 44, 22 of them at State. Counting his two seasons at Baylor, Roberts now has 1,621 points and rebounds. That latter figure ranks first for current NCAA players.
*Senior Winsome Frazier now ranks eighth in MSU career steals with 132, needing seven thefts to catch Terry Lewis (1980-83) in seventh. Frazier just caught Tang Hamilton (1998-01) for sixth in career treys, with 135, and is chasing Bart Hyche (1996-99) next at 161.
*Senior Marcus Campbell had two blocked shots against Virginia Tech, giving him 68 career swats to rank eighth in MSU annals. Next up is current MSU assistant Marcus Grant at 72.
*Senior Shane Power's 3-point shooting average in two years at State is 43.1%, which is far-and-away the best career rate for a Bulldog. He has made 62 of 144 attempts at the arc.
The Bulldogs stay in Western Division play but go on the SEC road for the first time, traveling to Oxford for a 1:00 Saturday matchup with Mississippi. The Tigers host Florida.