*This is the first of 12 Bulldog SEC games that will be televised, out of 16.
About the Rebels
Hot seat? What hot seat? To watch and hear Rod Barnes, the Rebel coach is feeling no more pressure than ordinary here in his seventh season with Mississippi. And the ever-upbeat Barnes has some reasons to hope this team can beat the odds and expectations (UM was a consensus pick to finish last in the Western Division and next-to-last overall in the SEC). The Rebels, coming off a 13-15, 5-11 SEC year and Barnes' first losing season and without the two leading players of last year, surprised observers with a strong pre-league record. They bounced back from a couple of opening losses to win nine of the next 11 games, including four victories over defending conference champions, and scored road wins at Memphis and VCU. Conference competition is another matter, though, and at Arkansas this UM team looked more like last spring's edition but without any big-game player potential. The Rebs certainly missed starting postman Tommie Eddie, held out of the SEC opener for academic reasons. Eddie's status for this weekend was still unsure at noon Friday, though UM was hoping to regain eligibility by gametime. With the 255-pounder in the middle the Rebels are a much more effective offensive team, and Eddie averaged a squad-best 12.3 points in pre-SEC play. If Eddie doesn't start, 6-9 rookie Jeremy Parnell is the biggest Reb on the bench. Otherwise they will use a mix of big guards and small forwards that has often proven surprisingly effective; such as a 42-29 margin in rebounds at Arkansas. Barnes has also been willing to shuttle almost the whole roster in-and-out and keep fresh legs on the court, allowing the Rebels to run all game long, and the bench has contributed about 30 points per game. While there is no one big gunner to watch out for, this team spreads the offense around and has made marked improvements from last year in accuracy, both overall and from the three-point arc…five Rebs have made between 15 and 21 treys and the team makes over 40% of attempts. So much like their first SEC game, the Bulldogs have to worry about playing a small, quick squad that puts up a lot of longballs. Only this time, it's on a hostile court, and with uncertainty about what exact lineup to prepare for.
Probable Starting Lineups
Mississippi: F Kendrick Fox, 6-7 SR, 6.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 21 3ptrs; F Londrick Nolen, 6-6 JR, 12.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg; *C Tommie Eddie, 6-7 SR, 12.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg; G Cavadas Nunnery, 5-9 SR, 3.5 ppg, 31 assts; G Justin Johnson, 6-0 SR, 5.1 ppg. (*if eligible).
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.2 ppg, 5.9 apg; G Winsome Frazier, 6-4 SR, 14.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 36 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 6.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 18.5 ppg, 11.8 rpg; F Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 10.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 25 3pts.
Scoring: MSU 76.0 ppg, UM 68.4 ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 60.8 ppg, UM 60.5 ppg
Rebounding: MSU 44.5 rpg, UM 31.7 rpg
Rebounding Margin: MSU +11.2, UM +4.1
Shooting: MSU 45.1%, UM 47.2%
Shooting Defense: MSU 37.1%, UM 45.2%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 34.4% (97/282), UM 40.2% (104/259)
Not surprisingly this is the most-played rivalry for each school, with 229 games contested since the series began in 1914. Mississippi State won the first nine meetings and has led ever since, with the tally standing at 128-101 going into Saturday. Bulldog teams have stretched their lead out in the last six years, winning ten of 12 games since 1999, and they take a six-game win streak into this rematch. The Rebels do hold a 74-39 lead in Oxford, but State has been able to find success in Smith Coliseum in recent years; the Dogs have won the last two games played on UM's home court, and three of the last four.
Did You Know?
*Though this is the Magnolia State's featured rivalry in any sport, not even half the basketball players on these respective benches hail from Mississippi. Just five Bulldogs are state natives—Charles Rhodes of Jackson, Michael Boler of Greenwood, Ontario Harper of Clinton, Dietric Slater of Waynesboro, and walk-on Seth Cannon of Brandon. But only two Rebels (Fox from Oxford, Nunnery from Magnolia) have home addresses in this state.
*Rick Stansbury has built a remarkable record at the expense of the Rebels. Through six years his teams have gone 10-3 in the rivalry, and they have won every game played in Starkville and one on a neutral court (2003 SEC Tournament). His ten wins against UM ranks fifth for MSU coaches, behind E.C. Hayes (24 wins from 1912-24), Babe McCarthy (16, 1956-65), Stanfield Hitt (14, 1940-47)and Richard Williams (13, 1987-98). But no MSU coach can match Stansbury's 77% winning average in the series.
*The last five games played in Oxford in this series have been decided by single-digit margins. The largest victory in this span was seven points, twice in State's favor (2002, 2004).
*State is now 90-12 in the Stansbury era when holding opponents under 65 points. Since 1999, Mississippi has never scored more than 69 points on a Bulldog team, and six times have been held under 60 points.
*State was a perfect 8-0 in SEC road games last season, and counting a win at the end of the 2003 regular season (at Oxford) these Bulldogs have a league road-success streak of nine going into this game. Counting non-SEC contests, the overall road streak now stands at 16 for regular-season games.
Bulldog Game Notes
*Since being allowed to play without a protective mask, senior forward Lawrence Roberts has averaged 21.7 points and 13.0 rebounds in seven games…all Bulldog wins. His season averages are now up to 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds. Roberts opened the defense of his 2004 SEC Player of the Year status by scoring 19 points with 15 boards against Auburn, but he was a point shy of becoming the first Dog since Jeff Malone in 1983 to score 20 or more points in five-straight games.
*In two games against Mississippi last season, Roberts scored 35 points. Senior guard Winsome Frazier had 19 points in the two MSU wins, and senior guard Shane Power 20 points.
*Roberts leads active NCAA players in career double-doubles with 45, 23 of them at State. Counting his two seasons at Baylor, Roberts now has 1,640 points.
*Senior Winsome Frazier now ranks eighth in MSU career steals with 135, needing four more thefts to catch Terry Lewis (1980-83) in seventh. Frazier just caught Tang Hamilton (1998-01) for sixth in career treys, with 137, and is chasing Bart Hyche (1996-99) next at 161.
Mississippi State will be on the road again for their first inter-Division contest, playing at Tenenssee next Wednesday. The Rebels also play an East opponent, hosting Georgia.